Co-Production and Probation Inspection

Lead Research Organisation: University of Nottingham
Department Name: Sch of Sociology & Social Policy


There is currently an increased interest in using "lived experience" as an approach to inform and crucially influence policy and practice in public services. Interest has grown explicitly around the importance of service user's perspectives in sharing power and is seen as equal in decision-making processes that shape such practices. The term co-production has been used to describe this area where professionals and citizens work together to utilize assets and resources to make decisions and influence outcomes at an organizational level, emphasizing the knowledge they can provide as "experts by experience." Research has been positive and has provided to be beneficial in a wide range of sectors. However, few empirical studies have been conducted to look at the processes and challenges that may arise, particularly in criminal justice settings. With a wide array of attention in this area, it has recently gained traction, and the need for a more robust evidence base has been highlighted.

This project explores the role of co-production within the Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation's (HMIP) scope, specifically the theories and discourses that can inform the inspection process in collaboration with service user involvement. The HMIP inspects probation and youth justice services in England and Wales, advising best and effective practices and making recommendations to improve future policy and practice outcomes. Critically the suggestions are to encourage improvement and to create greater effectiveness of the service delivery. The Inspectorate is keen to expand on their work thus far in implementing service user involvement throughout their organization. HMIP's current service user engagement strategy has laid down the foundations for this work to be carried out. The primary focus is on gathering a robust evidence base to support co-production work within their organization.

The main areas of research are as follows.

1. What theories and discourses have informed the development of co-production within public services and within the work of probation and youth justice inspection specifically?

2. What practical challenges are involved in the development and governance of co-produced inspections? (This may be the power dynamics and structures in place at present and management of future relationships)

3. What are the experiences of co-production for those involved in this work? (This will include service users, inspectorates, probation staff, and wider stakeholders)

4. What impacts does co-produced inspection have on inspection and service delivery processes and wider probation outcomes?

The research will adopt a multi-model approach focusing on ethnographic methods such as observations conducted on the development process in and around inspection settings. Therefore, giving insight and understanding of the scope of different facets undertaken in inspections. This analysis will then be used to inform how the involvement of service users is utilized and highlight areas that may be beneficial or problematic. Semi-structured interviews and focus groups will also be carried out in various locations to gather rich data on the experiences of key stakeholders. The analysis will provide the backbone to the current project.

The original contributions of this research may have broader implementations in the criminal justice sector, and the overall findings of this research will impact the Inspectorate's future policy and practices in this area. The research on co-production in the HMIP will create the fundamentals of future inspectorate work. The use of service user involvement is a focal point of future development, leading to greater transparency of services, better outcomes for service users, and improving future inspection efficiency.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000711/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
2573403 Studentship ES/P000711/1 30/09/2021 29/09/2025 Rob Ferguson