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Urgent Notifications and IRPs

Photograph of an external corridor area in a prison.

Urgent Notifications

If we identify serious concerns during an inspection of a prison, young offender institution or secure training centre, we may decide to issue an Urgent Notification (UN).

We will let the governor of the establishment know, and the Chief Inspector will write to the Secretary of State for Justice within seven calendar days of the end of the inspection. (For secure training centres, we seek agreement from HM Chief Inspector of Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission’s Chief Inspector of Primary Medical Services and Integrated Care before doing this.)

The Chief Inspector will outline his concerns and the reasons for them, summarising the judgements from the inspection and identifying the areas for improvement.

When we issue a UN, we consider:

  • our scores for the healthy prison assessments
  • whether the establishment has had repeated poor assessments
  • the type of prison it is and the risks presented
  • the vulnerability of those detained
  • whether the establishment has failed to address areas of concern
  • our confidence in its ability to change and improve.

Having received an Urgent Notification, the Secretary of State has 28 calendar days to publicly respond to the concerns raised in our published letter. This response will explain how outcomes for those detained in the institution will be improved in both the immediate and longer term. This process is outlined in section 7 of our protocol with the Ministry of Justice.

Read our Urgent Notifications.

Independent reviews of progress

Independent Reviews of Progress (IRPs) provide an assessment of how far prisons have addressed the concerns raised in our inspections. We carry out IRPs after we have issued an Urgent Notification, or after particularly troubling inspections.

IRPs are not inspections and we do not make any new judgements against our healthy prison tests. They:

  • provide an independent, evidence-based assessment of how the prison is progressing
  • look at outcomes for prisoners in the areas of main concern
  • offer feedback and guidance to help the prison improve
  • identify emerging difficulties in addressing the areas of concern
  • assess the quality of the leadership and management response to the key concerns.

We announce IRPs in advance and they take place eight to 12 months after the original inspection. They last 2.5 days and involve a small team of inspectors. We aim to publish reports within 25 working days of the end of the visit.

We usually conduct 15 to 20 IRPs each year. We sometimes work with partner organisations, including Care Quality Commission (CQC), Ofsted and Estyn, depending on the focus of the IRP.

We make judgements on progress, relating to each concern that is being followed up. The four judgements are:

  • No meaningful progress
  • Insufficient progress
  • Reasonable progress
  • Good progress

You can find out more in our guides for prison and YOI staff.

Read our independent reviews of progress.