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Commissioner’s response – Transforming rehabilitation: A revolution in the way we manage offenders

9th January 2013

Transforming rehabilitation: A revolution in the way we manage offenders – Consultation paper (CP1/2013).

Response to the consultation from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria

  1. Overview

1.1 The public demands a justice system that protects and supports victims, but must include a penal system that successfully punishes and rehabilitates offenders. It is fundamental that victims of crime should be at the heart of our criminal justice system, treated with respect and dignity, but also because their co-operation and trust is vital for it to function effectively and bring offenders to justice. In light of this, Government needs to recognise reoffending is a complex area and the proposed payment by results approach appears aspirational and lacking detail.

1.2 The Fabian Society, in its leaflet ‘Punishment and Reform’ (2011), expressed concern that the method used by the Government would focus on driving down costs rather than cutting crime via a holistic approach. As such, one of the main drivers for the Government’s proposed changes to a more Payment by Results (PbR) model is tackling the reoffending rate amongst offenders sentenced to less than twelve months. While we welcome their inclusion, we have concerns that extending post release supervision will be possible and successful under current spending constraints.

1.3 With the proposal to move the management of most medium to low level offenders away from existing public sector probation trusts, Government must ensure public protection is not compromised. Any perceived public problems with the criminal justice system (CJS) will have a far greater sense of alarm with the public than for example any issues identified with the current Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Work Programme for the unemployed and its current attempts to deliver sustainable results.

1.4 There is also little evidence that the extra costs generated by the extension of the rehabilitative approach to those on shorter sentences will be met by savings from competition and an extended market place.

  1. Timeframe

2.1 We feel the current short timescale for changes proposed by the MoJ is unnecessary. A longer timetable could encourage probation trusts to look at working together in collaboration or even explore opportunities to merge back office functions while maintaining an overarching focus on offender management. It would also allow potential Community and Voluntary Sector (CVS) provider’s greater time to prepare for the changes that will be required to offer service provision in competition with large scale private providers. It could allow pilots to operate across a number of areas. What is clear, is the timeframe proposed for such a radical change, is unrealistic and unnecessary if long term success in reoffending and rehabilitation is the goal.

2.2 For current CVS providers the proposed changes to commissioning and the timescale will undoubtedly require significant changes to CVS provision. These organisations will have to make significant changes to their operations and will need strong governance and effective user engagement. It may also mean existing successful providers of support to offenders will be squeezed out of the sector altogether. It should be noted, there is a risk that not all existing providers will be able to be future providers. It seems the model may inadvertently discourage CVS providers from bidding for main contracts, as the investment and risk required would be too great. Instead it is more likely CVS would look to win sub contracts to provide specific elements of a larger private sector held contract by acting as specialist spot providers on individual cases.

  1. Non-Statutory Offenders

3.1 Extending support for offenders sentenced to less than twelve months and not currently subject to support from probation officers is a positive move. Ministry of Justice figures for 2011, show court ordered community sentence schemes are 8% more effective at reducing one-year proven reoffending rates than custodial sentences of less than 12 months.

3.2 Sentences using the community and restorative justice model must include assessments of individual need with tailored responses for offenders and access to services to help prevent further offending. This must include life management assessment of factors lying behind offending such as drug or alcohol use; mental health issues; housing issues and providers must be equipped to work in this model. It is unclear what the proposed signposting would add to existing provision. It is something already achieved locally in Northumbria. There is, however, a danger of splitting or fragmenting existing offender management successes by introducing a large market place, with a mixture of large and small contract providers offering different elements of service requirements.

3.3 We are concerned offenders will be less likely to ‘connect’ with a multitude of service providers if they are being passed amongst a range of different providers for differing elements of their rehabilitation. Northumbria Probation Trust have identified the development of the co-location of multi-disciplinary offender services over recent years including facilities for woman offenders and integrated offender management schemes. We feel this should not be lost.

  1. Service Disconnection

4.1 While the principle of mentoring offenders immediately from their time of release is one we support, we are aware there is a danger that much of the best work currently undertaken to tackling local issues will be lost. We struggle to see how bundling up support in larger areas with larger boundaries will lead to improved outcomes.

4.2 In Northumbria, there is already extensive partnership working, including co-location of staff working on local issues and service delivery. Managers participate in local networks including Youth Offending Boards, Safeguarding Children Boards, MARACs as well as MAPPAs, the LCJBs, as well as developing new working relationships with local Heath and Wellbeing Boards. It would be a mistake to lose these relationships. Current structures have made progress in bringing down reoffending rates in recent years by investing in a more integrated approach. In delivering Integrated Offender Management (IOM), including efforts to pursue restorative justice programmes, it will prove difficult to estimate the potential impact on reoffending programmes, when local service providers are facing significant budgetary cuts.

4.3 By introducing the potential fragmentation of offender management, with potential consequent offender transfer and communication obstacles, there is a danger of introducing unclear responsibilities and accountabilities. Joe Kuipers of Avon and Somerset Probation Trust argues that by introducing a profit motive into rehabilitation there is potential for cheating, corrupt practices and target manipulation. Therefore, any simple binary measure of reoffending could ignore desistance research and distort the accuracy of reducing crime data.

  1. Localism

5.1 The current probation trust model has made progress in bringing down reoffending rates in recent years by investing in a more integrated approach. Rehabilitation costs in both the short to medium term require investment in wrap around services such as drug/alcohol programmes, housing liaison, and mental health services to provide people with the support to make a change in their lives. The Ministry of Justice, as well as local service providers, are facing large scale budget cuts over the course of the current spending period, meaning it is going to prove extremely challenging to provide such tailored wrap around support. This concern is echoed by Rick Muir of the Institute for Public Policy Research in an article for the New Statesman, where he argues its “…hard to see how a rehabilitation revolution can take off when so many local services are being cut back.”

5.2 Assessment of the prison service in rehabilitation will need to be fully considered within an appropriate timeframe. It would have been helpful if a full evaluation of the Peterborough Prison pilot and the merits of Social Impact Bonds beyond the initial existing reports, were available.

5.3 The Social Market Foundation (SMF) report “Prison Break: Tackling recidivism, reducing costs1, identified a need for a different approach to tackle re-offending with much less public money. This report suggests splitting the short and long-term prison populations to enable more accountable rehabilitation of persistent offenders on short-term sentences. Time spent rehabilitating offenders’ needs to commence in prisons and continued when offenders are released out into communities.

  1. Payments by Results

6.1 We have concern that the Payments by Results (PbR) model being proposed is seen as a panacea, when performance reporting via the Probation Trust Rating System of current probation trusts, show all are achieving good or excellent performance. Experience in other parts of government has shown PbR can be bureaucratic, expensive to establish and difficult to monitor properly. It would, therefore, seem logical to explore the extension of the remit of the current high performing probation trusts to co-ordinate the planned extension of work to currently non-statutory offenders. Indeed, the British Quality Foundation Gold medal for Excellence was recently achieved by the probation service, which strongly suggest the probation trusts are performing well and, with appropriate resourcing, an extension of their role could lead to significant social return on investment, impacting on reoffending levels that surround currently non-statutory offenders.

6.2 We support the view of the Northumbria Probation Trust that Government should allow existing probation trusts the freedom and appropriate timeframe to create separate delivery arms and allow trusts to use current local knowledge and partnerships to deliver services in the short term and compete for future contracts. If the Government is truly open to the best options, then failure to do so would be a missed opportunity.

6.3 Lessons from the PbR in the DWP Work Programme need to be learned. The system, as proposed, could exclude the public sector from bidding for contracts, and will most probably limit most of the voluntary and community organisations, who will feel unable to carry the financial risk pending publication of reoffending data and payment. We are also concerned that the PbR model will:

  • mean offenders with complex problems will be discriminated against in terms off opportunity to rehabilitate, as costs related to their need may be too great and firms will be keen to concentrate increasingly scarce resources on areas with a greater likelihood of financial return.
  • have unintended consequences, with the need for integrated services to meet offender requirements and draw together providers e.g. mental/physical health, housing, employment, meaning proposed changes are occurring at a time of immense economic challenge, with reductions in available funding amongst both public sector and community and voluntary sector providers.

6.4 While PbR can encourage contract providers to focus attention and resources that may provide the best return on investment, we are concerned that by doing so, it may reduce resources going to offenders with more complex needs. These are areas that may require a greater investment to change offending behaviour and may be neglected by the market if financial returns are less certain. This could mean not all offenders receiving equality of opportunity to rehabilitate, if their needs are more complex, and returns for contractors less certain. Pricing structures therefore will need to address this and make sure offenders with complex needs are not excluded from opportunity to change their behaviour through a lack of provision by contract providers. It would be sensible to for provider contracts to stipulate integrated case management as a key requirement of compliance.

6.5 Pricing will need to consider performance beyond a binary approach of abstaining from reoffending for a set time period. The Chief Inspector of Probation for England and Wales, Liz Calderbank, has alluded to the problems of measuring both performance and progress. On the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on 9 January 2013, highlighted theses difficulties by citing the example of a person convicted of a serious knife crime who reoffends by shoplifting a jar of coffee and whether this would be judged as progress? Would payment follow?

6.6 Clearly there is a balance to incentivise providers to work with all offenders including those with the most complex needs and who live disordered lives to ensure a fair access to rehabilitation. This means basic binary reward mechanisms for PbR will be difficult to justify and more graded intricate pricing structures will be more appropriate. Structures that balance reward and encourage intensive action by providers on all offenders are needed to ensure delivery is not aimed at harvesting the greatest financial reward at the expense of those that need support most to change their life choices.

6.7 If there is a genuine desire for the CVS to be involved, the conditions of contract need to be carefully considered, so as not to discourage these providers bidding and creating a genuinely diverse market place and not one dominated by large private companies.

  1. Supply Chain

7.1 The complexities and integrated service requirements needed to impact on reoffending rates mean a complex supply chain will need to have investment in management capacity to meet these complexities. Currently we are in a period where often bureaucracy is seen and referred to in a pejorative way. Cutting bureaucracy may reduce contract price but there is a danger that crucial management capacity being lost and therefore impacting on a complex supply chain and the end outcomes.

7.2 The complex range of reasons for reoffending and the integrated work required to impact on it should be recognised. The success on rehabilitating offenders and reducing offending may not be restricted to PbR contracts but as a result of local services working together. This may mean pricing structure will need to encourage multi-agency provision and sub contracting to specialist organisations.

7.3 Efficient and effective IT that allows the sharing of information is essential but only briefly referred to in the consultation paper. There is the danger that the extension to multiple service providers will have security issues with the current IT structure not equipped to deal with the change from contract commissioners to contract providers. The capability of IT could have serious implications for any oversight of contract providers by the public sector. Smaller providers must have the organisational governance in place to deal with information security. We would expect a full ICT needs assessment to be considered and factored in to any costings.

7.4 We are concerned that current probation trusts deal with a wide variety of troubled individuals with complex, often interwoven, needs and whether large scale private providers will wish to do that. We feel there is a risk that private providers will seek to ‘cherry pick’ and profile the type of offender they wish to work with to ensure they achieve their targets and reward, while some of the most complex cases are left for other providers. Contracts will need to be robust and large scale private firms who fail to deliver and simply walk away without penalty or reimbursement to the public purse for failure to fulfil promises dealt with in the tendering and procurement process. Organisations including The St Giles Trust, Clinks, National Council for Voluntary Organisations have all highlighted concerns about the size and awarding of contracts and ensuring the CVS are able to access rehabilitation contracts.

  1. Oversight

8.1 We welcome the intention to have PCCs play an integral role but have concerns again that there is a lack of detail around this in current thinking. PCCs expect a significant role in the provision of local offender management, as central commissioning needs to be influenced by local knowledge. Each Police and Crime Commissioners could provide an overarching role in co-ordinating accountability for the integrated service providers and contract management. However, it is clear that PCCs accountability of performance will need to be carefully considered. A PCC can not realistically be held accountable for reoffending figures when for example prison, health, housing or employment providers fail to deliver investment in their own service areas due to their own challenging financial settlements. More clarity around this area of accountability is needed.

8.2 PCCs could be involved in holding providers to account particular in ensuring all offenders are being catered for and contractor providers are not directing resources away on ‘quick wins’ and leaving those with the most complex issues behind and the knock on impact this may have had certain neighbourhoods and criminal behaviour.

8.3 We also have concerns that existing probation trusts with boundaries co-terminous with existing PCC boundaries and those of the police and local authorities will have local knowledge diluted and potential oversight made more difficult if they’re extended further. There is also the potential issue of large areas within which there are competing priorities and this could impact on efficiency. While there may be an argument of bringing together smaller trust areas to drive savings, we would be wary that any oversight over 16 large ‘super’ areas would be more difficult and instead it may be more prudent to encourage more of a partnership approach. We feel that perhaps maintaining boundaries similar to PCC and police force boundaries with opportunities for collaboration would be more practicable.

8.4 We feel there is a need to think about how to institutionalise a more effective and joined up approach to reducing reoffending in the long term. We assume this is where MoJ thoughts are with Police and Crime Commissioners, with consideration of how MoJ budgets are devolved and the potential role of PCCs used to encourage further partnership working and facilitate integrated service management for rehabilitation of offenders, as many offenders have multiple needs and require complex interventions. These services, such as the delivery of mental health services, may necessarily be commissioned by other public sector bodies and so local commissioning requirements needs to be more integrated. We believe Police and Crime Commissioners, already commissioning services across the criminal justice landscape could provide an opportunity to extend and develop their role through co-ordination of delivery and providing accountability.

  1. Standards

9.1 Any increase in the amount of providers in the market will need appropriate quality assurance measures in place to maintain standards and encourage and develop excellence. This also includes development of staff and protection of the professional excellence of those providing services and respect and recognition for their skills and expertise.