Learning from service users

10 July 2017

INTERSERVE’S justice business has striven to put people on probation at the heart of the service via regular councils held across its Community Rehabilitation Companies.

The five Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) formed a relationship with User Voice to ensure that not only are service users are heard, but that they are intimately involved in the way the business develops.

User Voice is an independent organisation led by people who have personal experience of the criminal justice system. The organisation aims to engage offenders to bring about reform and improve criminal justice services.

Merseyside CRC already had a relationship with User Voice prior to Interserve winning five CRC contracts. The partnership between the CRC and User Voice involves service user representatives engaging with other service users to find out their experiences and to recommend ways to improve the company at Service User Councils, which are attended by the chief executive.

A spokesperson for User Voice, said: “Clearly it has been a challenging time for probation because there has been a great deal of change during a very short period of time across the country.

“But on the flip side for User Voice to be involved with Interserve from the CRCs’ inception has given service users the opportunity to have their say and help shape the business from the outset.

“It has given service users a fantastic opportunity to use their experience for the benefit of the CRCs.”

User Voice initially facilitated its Service User Council model in Merseyside, and this has since been replicated across Interserve’s justice business.

To help prepare for each council – which meet once every two months to discuss findings, hear feedback and implement measures to address issues – User Voice staff meet with the service user representatives who collate information, identify positives, highlight areas of concern and develop solution based proposals.

Ian Mulholland, Interserve’s director of justice, said: “A fundamental aspect of our approach to rehabilitation is that service users are at the heart of what we do. Therefore ensuring their feedback is captured and acted upon is crucial.

“Our relationship with User Voice, and the Service User Councils which result from that relationship, is one of the ways in which we listen to our service users and develop our practice accordingly.

“I am delighted by how it is working in practice and to see that it is also helping individuals participating in the scheme to develop new skills.”

The spokesperson added: “Service User Councils are a big part of what our organisation is all about. They are led by service users, are independent and democratic. We don’t have an agenda, what we are all about is creating a safe space for people to give honest and open feedback.

“Where issues are uncovered, representatives on the councils also strive to find solutions and to put those to the senior decision makers. But it’s crucial to remember that good practice is praised as well.

“Participating in the councils can also directly benefit service users, who develop skills and experience which can help them progress. It can help develop a positive identity for people who have previously been labeled and stigmatised.”