Today, HMI Probation publishes their report on the value of service user involvement in the review and improvement of probation services.
Being involved from the start of the process, through co-designing the questionnaires, really gave me and the Lived Experience Team (LET) the opportunity to use our experience to bring a different perspective to some aspects of the questions, and help shape the direction of who to target to get the key information required for this research. It was really encouraging to have the LET so welcomed by the HMI Probation team and I believe it shows that we are moving towards a time where Lived Experience is finally being recognised for its value.
I was one of the peer researchers that visited locations alongside the HMIP research team. Part of this was observing a service user council, which I found really interesting. The requests from service users were reasonable and the staff’s responses were acceptable. The feedback during discussions we had with both staff and service users were positive. I even double checked with service users that this was how well it usually worked without being observed and they said it pretty much was, which was great to know! I thought this was a good example of involvement being used effectively.
In the co-analysis session, the LET recoded and refocused report themes. There were a few themes that stood out for me. Firstly, service users wanting to be rewarded and acknowledged for their involvement, which I think is a really important theme to take on. People are dedicating their time and energy into supporting improving the service so they should feel this is acknowledged. The other theme was personal growth and how much service user involvement really helped people feel part of something and they felt it helped them to rehabilitate, which is amazing.
Ultimately probation exists to stop reoffending. Involvement having an impact on helping to rehabilitate people is a massive theme to keep in mind. I believe this project has been an excellent example of how powerful the inclusion of Lived Experience can be. Working collaboratively with Lived Experience to support probation, inspections and research in order to have more effective outcomes and processes shows how valuable Lived Experience is.