Helping, Holding, Hurting: A Conversation about Supervision

Publication Date01 March 2018
The Howard Journal Vol57 No 1. March 2018 DOI: 10.1111/hojo.12240
ISSN 2059-1098, pp. 94–106
Helping, Holding, Hurting:
A Conversation about Supervision
Fergus McNeill is Professor of Criminology and Social Work, University of
Glasgow; Mark is a Service User and Peer Researcher (National Probation
Service, Cambridgeshire); Owy Thomas is a Probation Officer (National
Probation Service, Cambridgeshire); Kim Thornden-Edwards is Director of
Rehabilitation and Professional Practice (Interserve)
Abstract: This article begins with an overview of some of the late Bill McWilliams’s key
contributions to probation research and scholarship, focusing in particular on how his
work helps us think about how people experience supervision, and about how the practice
of supervision should be conceived and constructed. In the sections that follow, three of
the co-authors respond to these ideas from their different perspectives as service user, as
frontline probation officer, and as probation manager. In the conclusion, we summarise
the discussion by focusing on the role of values, of relationships and of evidence in the
reform and development of probation.
Keywords: parole; probation; probation history; probation practice; probation
values; supervision
The Howard Journal has a long-standing tradition of publishing the annual
Bill McWilliams Memorial Lecture. The lecture series was inaugurated
20 years ago to remember and reflect upon Bill’s legacy as a pioneer-
ing probation researcher. This year, the lecture was, in fact, not a lecture.
Having taken the decision to focus the event on how people experience
probation supervision (for better or worse), the organising steering group
agreed that it would make more sense to imagine the event as a conversa-
tion. They asked Fergus McNeill – as an academic with an interest in the
topic – to introduce and steer the conversation, and invited three people
with lived experience of being supervised to take part.
Despite several weeks of careful planning and preparatory dialogue
however, on the day, only one of the three – Mark – was able to come. So,
at the last minute, the panel was reconvened to include Owy Thomas (an
experienced frontline practitioner working with the National Probation
Service) and Kim Thornden-Edwards (a senior manager in a Community
Rehabilitation Company with extensive experience of probation work and
2017 The Howard League and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK

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