Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-79)|
TUESDAY 11 FEBRUARY 2003
60. Still with staff morale, with all those
changes, according to your own statistics the number of probation
officers between 1997 and 2001 has only gone up by 357, whereas
other grades within the probation service have increased by 1,449.
(Professor Morgan) Yes.
61. Are you actually putting the extra resource
where it is needed, in the front line?
(Professor Morgan) Most of those additional staff
are front-line staff, it is just that they are called probation
service officers, but they are essential for the supervision of
low-risk offenders and also for delivering the accredited programmes
which are now a key component in what the probation service delivers.
(Mr Hutchings) They would include people working in
supervising community punishment orders and staff working in probation
hostels as well.
62. Would you wish to see a bigger increase
than 357 over the last five years for the workload that is currently
there and the projected increased workload? Or do you think the
number of probation officers in England and Wales of 7,500 is
sufficient for the workload?
(Professor Morgan) I do not think we can answer that
question in a definitive way. I think the Inspectorate agrees
that the sort of staff mix that is being achieved is necessary
and desirableand it is, incidentally, reflected within
the Inspectorate. When I joined the Inspectorate, I think I was
the first person to join who had not had a straightforward probation
service career. Now we have a number of colleagues, and it is
necessary for the service to have that staff mix. If you look
at the services to which the probation service has to ensure accessin
relation to drugs, in relation to basic skills, in relation to
housingthat all involves working collaboratively with other
state services and local authorities to ensure that access by
offenders to pooled resources is achieved, and that means that
the range of skills and contacts and expertise that you need within
a probation service has changed quite significantly in recent
years and it is being achieved and arguably should be pushed yet
63. Moving on, you have already mentioned our
predecessor Committee's report of 1998. Four years ago the Government
admitted that too little is known about the effectiveness of the
probation work. Is that still the case?
(Professor Morgan) I think the position that you recorded
in your 1998 report has changed quite dramatically. On that occasion
you complained in your conclusions that insufficient attention
was being paid to the evaluation of programmes. There is now a
very substantial programme of evaluation and research being undertaken
by the Home Office, the largest that it has ever undertaken, and
a great deal of it is being focused upon the programmes under
the "What Works" banner that are being rolled out by
the prison and probation services.
64. Has the Inspectorate commissioned any research?
(Professor Morgan) No, we do not commission research
and we do not have funds to undertake that, but we take a close
interest in it and we have a continuing dialogue with the Home
Office Research and Statistics Division and with the National
Directorate over what the research programme comprises, and where
we think work needs to be done which is not being done then we
make representations to that end.
65. Are you content with that research?
(Professor Morgan) I think the broad panoply of research
being undertaken is broadly adequate. You could always argue for
further pieces of work than have been undertaken but I think a
great deal of research is now being undertaken and that represents
a signal change from that which you recorded in 1998.
66. Again, four years on, what is the latest
position with the comparative cost-effectiveness of custodial
as opposed to non-custodial sentences?
(Professor Morgan) Perhaps I can retreat here to one
or two generalities, because I think it is necessary. The research
on the pilot, so-called, "What Works" programmes showed
that, if the programmes were delivered in the best conceivable
way by highly trained and skilled personnel and they were targeted
on offenders with certain characteristics, they held out great
promise in reducing re-conviction rates comparing like-for-like
cases. Those statistics have received a great deal of attention.
But it is one thing to deliver programmes experimentally or on
a pilot basis in ideal circumstances, and it is quite a different
thing to roll it out generally. Once you roll out programmes generally,
they are not always targeted on the ideal offenders, they are
not always delivered by persons with the best skills and they
are not always delivered in ideal circumstances. We have already
referred to a letter which talked about the gap between a court
deciding that someone should undertake a programme and them actually
starting it, and that has been a substantial problem within the
system, particularly in the early days of the "What Works"
programmes. Therefore, rolling out a programme and achieving the
same results that you achieved when you did it on a pilot basis,
experimentally, are chalk and cheese. I think it would be very
surprising if the programmes rolled out nationally were to achieve
the sort of very good results which appear to be coming though
from the pilot and the experimental ones.
67. So we do not know, but what we do know is
that there are more people in prison now than there were four
(Professor Morgan) That is a slightly different issue.
I thought we were addressing currently the effectiveness of particular
68. But the upshot is the re-offending issue,
which I understood we were looking at, between non-custodial and
custodial sentences. I thought the object of the exercise was
to deter people from committing further offences?
(Professor Morgan) Yes. I am sorry, I think we may
be talking past each other. I thought your question was largely
addressing the Home Office objective of reducing re-offending
rates by five per cent.
(Professor Morgan) Yes, but we are also talking about
a changing sentencing pattern, as opposed to people getting sentenced
because they failed earlier on programmes delivered in a community
70. Let us take things to the future. You have
made reference to the relevance and impact of interventions. Could
you give us some more details on how that would work?
(Professor Morgan) We do not yet know, because we
do not have follow-up data yet on persons who have undertaken
the programmes, both in a prison and a probation context for sufficiently
long enough to know how well they are working, but I am suggesting
to you that it would be highly surprising if the very good results
that resulted from the pilot programmes were sustained from a
generally rolled-out programme nationally, and the latest data
that I have seen are much less encouraging, though they have not
yet been published. But I am suggesting that we should not expect
the sort of results which you will have been aware of from the
pilot programmes. The national figures currently look rather promising
on the basis of a two-year follow-up from, I think, the 1997 baseline
towards the 5 per cent reduction. I mean, the latest figures are
.... What is it?
(Mr Ramell) A reduction of 3.1 per cent on the predicted
rate for community orders and that is based on orders commencing
in the first quarter of 1999. That is the latest available data,
so that is showing good progress towards the 5 per cent target
71. Five per cent, presumably, is the minimum.
You would like it to be higher still.
(Mr Ramell) Yes.
(Professor Morgan) I think we would all like a much
higher figure but whether it is realistic to look for it
72. The point is that is not a target to reach,
that is a target to go beyond.
(Professor Morgan) Yes. Absolutely.
73. Chairman, my final, all-embracing question.
The monitoring process is now increasingly a function of the National
Directorate. Are you satisfied that they are equipped to carry
out this function effectively? Would you not think that perhaps
the Inspectorate is better placed to carry out such monitoring
because it is independent of the Government?
(Professor Morgan) This needs to be broken down a
little. I explained in my introduction this morning that we used
to collect a large number of data about compliance with national
standards. When the NPD was formed in April 2001, we gradually
handed over that function to them, and there are other functions
which we are in the course of handing over in relation to the
delivery of accredited programmes. I think that is a right and
proper shift, because I think performance management is the task
of management and should now be the function of the NPD, and that
they should have in place arrangements so that they can monitor
the delivery of services on a week-to-week/month-to-month basis.
Nevertheless, the data returned by areas on a monthly basis to
the National Directorate, showing what performance in relation
to those standards is, are very important to us: we need to know
that they are reliable, because it is the starting point for everything
that we look at. Periodically quality assurance exercises are
being undertaken to ensure that the data being returned by the
areas to the centre are reliable and that we can rely on them,
and we are involved in that exercise. We are not relinquishing
concern for that, but we do think it is largely their function,
but we ourselves need to take steps to work with them to ensure
the data are valid and reliable and we are doing that. We are
proposing in our inspection programme, however, to take those
performance data as the starting point. Our question is: Why is
one area performing well and one area not? Why is it that one
area is able to hit a target and another area is not? Why is one
area taking industrial action and is there apparently a problem
of workloads in one area as opposed to another? Those are the
starting point questions for an inspectorate and, in order to
make that the starting point, we have to be confident that the
data being returned to the centre are reliable. So it is a balance.
74. Going back to those five Bills to which
you referred a moment ago, would you remind us what they are?
(Professor Morgan) Now you are putting
me on the spot! The Criminal Justice Bill; the Court Sentences
Bill; the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill, the Sex Offenders Billnot
yet introduced, I thinkand the Mental Health Bill. So there
are potentially five Bills, some of which will have only marginal
implications for the probation servicethey all have some
implications, some of them major.
75. My question was going to be: is there anything
in those five Billsand I think at least two have not been
introduced yetthat imposes an unnecessary burden on you
(Professor Morgan) No, I do not think I want to argue
that. The question about resources for the probation service is
very contingent upon what form eventually those Bills, particularly
the Criminal Justice Bill, take, when the commencement dates are
attached to particularly important provisions, and whether it
is backed up adequately with a budget.
Chairman: That is a very fair point.
76. Mr Morgan, you say in your foreword in your
report that there is no evidence that the public and sentencers
particularly want a tough probation service. I am not sure I actually
agree with that. Do you think, with the changes that have occurred
in recent years, the public no longer regard the probation service
or probation as a soft option?
(Professor Morgan) If I can refer to
my earlier statement, I did undertake a survey of public knowledge
and confidence in the criminal justice system for the Halliday
Report and I undertook a national survey of magistrates and the
public at large and practitioners in the criminal justice system
for the Auld Report. Those were two research functions I undertook
before. I think I come to the following conclusions. First of
all, the public at large know remarkably little about the probation
service and know remarkably little about its working. I do not
personally think that it is ever likely that the man and woman
on the Clapham omnibus will ever know a great deal about the probation
servicewhy should they? People are not walking about the
streets saying, "Shall I or shall I not use the probation
service?" It is part of the infrastructure of the state on
which they hope they can rely but about which, frankly, they do
not know a great deal. So I think efforts need to be taken to
try to increase public awareness and knowledge about what the
probation service does, but I do not think we can reasonably expect
the average person to know a lot about the probation service nor
do I think they are particularly interested in it. When I said
I do not think there is any evidence that the public want a tough
probation service, I meantand it is rather similar to the
issue we were discussing earlier about the so-called demand by
the public for custodial sentencesthat all the more sophisticated
public opinion evidence shows that the public want whatever we
do to be effective. They do and do not have misconceptions about
some of what we do. They want evidence, if someone is subject
to a community penalty, that it is going to be challenging and
demanding and likely to address the factors that underpinned the
offending behaviour of the offender and is likely to reduce the
likelihood of them being-re-victimised. That is what they want.
If you could provide evidence that being very harsh might achieve
that, they might well wish for harshness, but that is not, of
course, what the evidence shows. The evidence shows that if we
address the criminogenic factors which underpin offending and
we do it in a sophisticated way, then there is a greater likelihood
that the person will not continue on their career of offending.
I think that is what the public wants.
77. That is fine, as far as it goes. Do you
think the public now believe that the probation service is more
(Professor Morgan) I doubt whether there has been
any great change, frankly. I think I was pointing, in the introduction
to our annual report, to the fact that in recent years Parliament
has determined that the titles of community penalties should change.
The probation order has become the community rehabilitation order.
78. You call this jargon.
(Professor Morgan) I doubt, frankly, that by simply
changing the names of orders you greatly increase public confidence
or knowledge; I think you are more likely to sow confusionwhich
is not to say that I was against the changes. I think I was not
particularly in favour of the change to community service because
I observed, after I took this job, that when I went out and met
magistrates they continued to refer to it as community service.
When I visited different parts of the country, I noted that within
the probation service the people who organised community punishment
orders were still organised in many parts of the country in community
service units and the activity in which offenders engaged was
called community service. I pointed out in the annual report that,
if you look at what community service ideally should comprise
according to the NPD, I cannot think of a term that better connotes
what they think it should comprise than community service.
79. You said earlier that the public does not
know much about the probation service and why should it. Surely
the community, the public, will understand a community punishment
order more than a probation order?
(Professor Morgan) No, the reason I focused on that
is that all the research evidence showed that the only bit of
the community penalty panoply which was widely understood was
community service. This, somehow, was a term that a high proportion
of people had understood and thus to lose it was possibly no great
advantage. I have to add that if, of course, Parliament approves
the provisions in the Criminal Justice Bill, most of this debate
will become redundant because we will then have a single portmanteau
"community penalty" within which the court will fix
particular provisions. The whole panoply of community punishment
orders, community punishment and rehabilitation orders, etc, will
become part of history.