Ian MacFadyen’s story

I have been with the inspectorate for 10 years. I lead the inspections of juvenile establishments. Before I became an inspector, I was an operational manager of a  youth offending team (YOT) in West Sussex.

Before that I worked at HMYOI Feltham as a governor and helped to introduce the first combined juvenile sentence - the Detention and Training Order (DTO). Half is served in prison and half in the community. Feltham wanted someone with a social work background who could talk to YOT workers outside, host review meetings in the prison and begin to establish some common ground.

My early professional career was spent working in approved schools and  as a social worker in various penal establishments in Scotland. I also ran a children’s home. I was interested in group work and psychology and there was a big focus on that in Scotland at that time.

You need to understand the constraints that prison officers operate under: security is number one. By contrast social workers will always prioritise care over control. You need to be able to respect the pressures your colleagues are working under to establish credibility. If you come in and take an uncompromising stance, no-one will take you seriously.

I love working for the Inspectorate. I’ve never worked with such capable, able peers. There are people working there at the top of their profession. There’s no mystique to being a good inspector. You need to be able to demonstrate that you can talk to people, carry out a basic assessment and reach a professional judgement.

A key attribute is humility. If we’re doing our job properly, we’ll make recommendations that will help people raise their game. When you go into a prison as an Inspector, everyone is keen to tell you their story. That seldom happened in social work – folk didn’t want to talk to you. When they did, they were often negative and belligerent.

We have helped to improve treatment and conditions for prisoners and other detainees. And one of the most important beliefs is this: all human beings have the capacity to change. 

HM Inspectorate of Prisons


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