Surrey & Sussex Probation Trust (SSPT) manages around 8,000 offenders in Surrey and Sussex, with around 670 staff working across more than 20 sites including prisons, courts and its ten probation offices.
SSPT's key responsibilities include:
The purpose of its work with offenders is to punish, help, change and, where necessary, control, all with the aims of reducing the risk that offenders will re-offend and protecting the public.
Probation services in Surrey and Sussex have undergone significant change since adopting the EFQM Excellence Model in 2002. Back then, Sussex Probation Area had just been created, following a merger of East Sussex and West Sussex Probation Services. The new organisation used the Model to assist with the change programme and help establish a unified model for excellence upon which to build.
Wanting to test itself against other organisations also using the Model, Sussex Probation Area entered the London Excellence Awards in 2006 and won awards for innovation, results focus and staff development.
SSPT's Chief Executive Nick Smart said: 'This gave us an early sense of how motivating it was for us to test ourselves against other organisations and discover that we were excelling. It acted as a springboard for success over the subsequent years.'
Over the next few years several more London Excellence Awards followed, as well as the achievement of Investors in Excellence status. Around this time Surrey and Sussex Probation staff and projects also won coveted sector-specific awards from the Butler Trust and Howard League for Penal Reform.
The organisation decided to apply for Recognised for Excellence (R4E) in 2009 and was awarded the maximum 5 stars, a remarkable achievement for a first application. Nick remarked: 'We started to see ourselves, and be seen by others, as an excellent organisation and that inspired confidence.'
The Model was again used to support the merger of Surrey Probation Area and Sussex Probation Area in 2010 and the award of trust status. Despite these challenges, in September 2011 the newly-formed SSPT successfully retained its predecessor's 5 star R4E certification. 'We were particularly proud that the assessors singled out our focus on engaging offenders and providing a quality service to the community,' said Nick.
SSPT was chosen in 2010 as the pilot area to test a new way of working for the probation service in place of the old National Standards, which dictated minimum requirements for offender contact and risk assessments. The pilot method provided probation officers with more freedom to exercise their professional judgement in managing offenders and was such a success that this new way of working has since been rolled out nationally.
In the last 12 months, SSPT has been further recognised for its commitment to excellence and staff development with the award of the Cabinet Office Customer Service Excellence standard. Trust staff also won three categories at the 2011 Probation Awards, including Probation Champion of the year for Quality Development Officer Kate Knight. In addition Kate was presented with the Butler Trust Award for excellence in offender management in March 2012.
'R4E has been very transformational for us. It provides external verification which demonstrates that we do a difficult job well,' said Nick. 'The EFQM Excellence Model is naturally reflective of the way we work as an organisation, and its values are well embedded in our culture. It is an excellent tool for promoting organisational learning and development.'
He added: 'We are living in a time of shrinking resources and radical reform in the public sector. Being Recognised for Excellence has helped to manage this in a way that has not impacted on quality, and we are confident it will continue to do so as the process of change continues.'