A research conducted by the University of Cambridge in collaboration with KSS CRC Research and Policy Unit on ‘Remote Supervision- Getting the Balance Right’, also published in the Probation Quarterly 2021 points out that the Covid-19 pandemic brought considerable changes to probation practice. The HMPPS Exceptional Delivery Model required staff and service users to interact in different ways, including making much larger use of the telephone to keep in touch. A small team of researchers (from the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company Research Unit and the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge) began to explore case managers’ views of the advantages and drawbacks of different methods of remote communication.
The research uncovered that the telephone call was the most frequent form of remote supervision used by practitioners. Video calls were not employed to contact service users (this was a matter of CRC policy) but were regularly employed for meetings with other professionals. Text messages and emails were also commonly employed (the former for quick and direct communication, the latter for passing on key health/employment documents) but had their problems. Research participants pointed to strengths and limitations of telephone supervision.
The research concluded that supervision cannot solely rely on telephone contact. However, there is a place for telephone supervision. The research also highlighted the importance of professional discretion and use of video calls as well as developing the use of internet resources for supervision. Lastly, it discussed the use of flexible working with greater use of remote supervision.
In conclusion communication and human interaction are vital to probation supervision. This research highlights ways in which remote supervision hinders supervision and obstructs the process of building rapport and trust. However, it also suggests that there is a place for the telephone and internet resources as options available to improve supervision.