How we do it

Justice social work: inspection of community payback orders 

In our overview report published December 2021, we presented the key findings aggregated across all five inspections.

Between September 2018 and November 2020, we completed five inspections of justice social work services with a particular focus on community payback orders in these areas:

  • Scottish Borders
  • West Dunbartonshire
  • Inverclyde
  • Dumfries and Galloway
  • Aberdeen City.

We produced an inspection guide for this activity. In summary the inspection methodology involved:

  • submission of a self-evaluation by each local authority area
  • review of a representative sample of relevant records of people who were or had been subject to a community payback order
  • interviews with people currently subject to a community payback order
  • focus groups and interviews with members of staff, partner agencies and stakeholders, and senior managers, chief officers, elected members with responsibility for community justice social work
  • verbal feedback to the local authority on findings based on the analysis and evaluation of all aspects of the inspection
  • publication of an inspection report for each participating local authority area that included evidence-based evaluations of key quality indicators using a six-point scale.

Community justice partnerships: supported and validated self-evaluation 

Between 2018 and 2020, we worked in partnership with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) to support the implementation of the new community justice model through a validated self-evaluation approach. We carried out assurance activities across the following five community justice partnerships, one of which incorporated three local authority areas:

For more information on the supported and validated self-evaluation methodology please refer to our guidance and additional information. In summary our activity included:

  • support and guidance from a strategic inspector for partnership areas to undertake self-evaluation
  • submission of a self-evaluation by the partnership
  • analysis of the submitted documents by the Care Inspectorate/HMICS team
  • follow-up activities with the partnership to explore any areas of uncertainty (these included visits, interviews and focus groups)
  • verbal feedback on the findings to each partnership based on the analysis of all the evidence gathered
  • publication of the validation letter.

Community justice social work: throughcare review 

The Scottish Government established the national criminal justice Recover, Renew, Transform (RRT) programme in response to the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on the justice system in Scotland. One of the tasks of the Recovery of Community Justice and Prevention of Offending sub-group was to explore breach of licence and recall to prison. This was to further understand recall and related processes to reduce the number of people being recalled to custody, where appropriate.

In March 2021, the Care Inspectorate received a request from the sub-group to undertake a focused piece of work relating to breach of licence/recall to custody. The strategic justice team undertook a review of throughcare with a primary focus on community justice social work practice.

The review sought to:

  • identify potential barriers to reintegration; and
  • seek assurance that community justice social work contributions to breach and recall processes were operating as they should.

As part of the review, we also gathered the views of individuals from across Scotland who had been recalled to prison following a breach of their throughcare licence conditions.

We published a report of our findings in September 2021. The report contains more detail on the methods we used.

Our collaborative work with scrutiny and improvement partners 

We have a long-standing commitment to contribute to inspections of prisons and other institutions led by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons in Scotland (HMIPS). Over the past three years, our contribution has been led by the strategic justice team with support from other strategic colleagues as appropriate. Throughout 2020/2021, we contributed to HMIPS Covid-19 liaison activities through on-site visits and remote contact with community agencies.

Throughout 2021/2022, we will continue to work with scrutiny and justice partners to contribute to the thematic prison review of risk management, progression and early release.  

A separate piece of collaborative work will focus on the extent to which community justice partners are delivering on national priorities relating to early intervention and prevention.


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Our support to local partnerships

Our support to local partnerships

Each strategic inspector acts as link inspector to one or more local authority areas across the country. The key purpose of the link inspector role is to fulfil the Care Inspectorate’s ‘general duty of furthering improvement in the quality of social services’ in relation to local authority social work services. This duty is set out at section 44(1)(b) of the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010.

The link inspector role has a degree of complexity because few social work services are now provided on a standalone basis. Most are now planned, delivered and monitored through partnership arrangements. Regardless of their specialist area, link inspectors engage across the broad spectrum of social work and care services for adults and older people, children and young people and justice services in their link areas.

The key areas of activity for link inspector work are:

  • monitoring the performance and quality of social work services
  • monitoring the performance of partnership public protection arrangements
  • identifying factors which are supporting social work services to deliver good or improved outcomes, and any barriers
  • highlighting risks to the delivery of positive outcomes by social work services, and the potential impact of those risks
  • identifying good practice within social work service and disseminating this more widely
  • supporting the efforts of local authorities and partnerships to build capacity for continuous improvement.

The Care Inspectorate also provides relationship managers for each council area, with responsibility for assurance and improvement work in relation to regulated services. There is a relationship manager for adult services and one for ELC. The link inspector and relationship managers work closely together.

More information about the relationship manager role can be found here.

You can get information about the link inspector for a particular local authority area by e-mailing the strategic support team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Information on the link inspector role for local authorities and partnerships can be found here.


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Justice social work

Our approach

The Care Inspectorate was tasked by the Scottish Government to lead on scrutiny and assurance to support the implementation of the community justice model and provide up-to-date scrutiny and assurance of justice social work.

The Community Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 introduced the current model of community justice. The Scottish Government outline the priorities in the national strategy for community justice.

The Act also established a national body, Community Justice Scotland to oversee community justice and introduce requirements to achieve national and local outcomes. These are highlighted within an Outcome, Performance and Improvement Framework.

The Scottish Government also commissioned the Care Inspectorate to develop a guide to self-evaluation for community justice in Scotland. The self-evaluation guide aligns to the national strategy and the OPI Framework.

The guide is primarily for community justice partnerships to support continuous improvement. It also informs our approach to scrutiny and assurance of justice social work.

Since the strategic justice strategic team was established in 2018, we have undertaken a range of scrutiny, assurance and improvement activities in collaboration with a number of partners. We published an overview report in December 2021 which details our work and summarises the key findings.

How we do it

For detail on the methods we have used below, follow this link.

  • Justice social work: inspections of community payback orders
  • Community justice partnerships: supported and validated self-evaluation
  • Community justice social work: throughcare review
  • Our other work with scrutiny partners

Getting involved

We are committed to meaningfully involving people with lived experience of the justice system in our scrutiny, assurance and improvement activities. We want to develop an ethical, person-centred approach that promotes best practice. A pilot approach was developed in partnership with a national third sector agency. However, intended activities were disrupted by Covid-19. We aim to progress this work in 2022/23.

If you have any questions about our work please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 


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Our quality assurance role

Our quality assurance role

The strategic inspection team supports learning and improvement in social work services and partnerships by providing an additional level of scrutiny to reviews which they carry out. The review processes which we quality assure are:

You can find more information in the links below:



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Joint inspections of adult support and protection

Our approach 

Scottish Ministers requested that the Care Inspectorate lead these joint inspections of adult support and protection in collaboration with Healthcare Improvement Scotland and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland.

In line with the Scottish Government led improvement plan, further scrutiny and assurance of adult support and protection is being undertaken across Scotland. This builds on the first joint inspection of adult support and protection, involving six adult protection partnerships, undertaken in 2017/18 and published July 2018. The initial inspection identified some good progress by partnerships but also variations in how partnerships give effect to the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007. The report from this inspection can be found here. The Scottish Government requested further scrutiny across the remaining 26 partnership areas. 

A phased approach to scrutiny and assurance of adult support and protection has been developed. This is a programme of activity that is planned to be delivered over two phases. Phase 1 of the programme is an inspection programme, developed to provide baseline information across the 26 adult protection partnerships not previously inspected. This will be followed by second phase of scrutiny and/or improvement activity which will be informed by phase 1. The joint inspection approach based on the European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) excellence model will be carried out under Section 115, Public Services Reform (Scotland), Act 2010.

The inspection team reviewed the programme to develop a modified methodology that allows remote undertaking of inspection activities on a multi-agency basis.

How we do it 

The key activities include case file audit and a staff survey. The case file audits review social work, police and health records. A bespoke adult support and protection staff survey is issued to staff from social work, social care, health and police in each partnership area. We also hold focus groups for front line workers and strategic leaders working within adult support and protection in the partnership to gather views on what impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the partnerships ability to support adults at risk of harm.  

Getting involved 

We plan to engage with individuals who have been supported through adult protection measures in phase 2 of the inspection programme. We are committed to meaningfully involving people with lived experience in our scrutiny, assurance and improvement activities.

More information 

You can find full information about the joint inspections of adult support and protection here.

This includes a suite of supporting documentation for the inspection programme.

Our ASP inspection reports can be found here.

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