Cutting crime: the case for justice reinvestment - Justice Committee Contents

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 359 - 379)



  Chairman: Mr Porée, Director of Operational Policy and Commissioning at NOMS. We are getting a bit bogged down in initials today and you may find that we spell them out from time to time. You are doing a double shift today, taking part in two sections of our evidence and we thank you very much for that. I am going to ask Andrew Turner to ask the first question.

  Q359  Mr Turner: Good day. We were told by Roger Hill that the Commissioning and Partnerships Framework is no longer applicable. Could you tell us if that is true and, if so, no subsequent framework has been developed and could you tell us how regional and local commissioning is now intended to take place?

  Ian Porée: I am happy to do that. The comment by Roger Hill that the Commissioning and Partnerships Framework is no longer applicable was more about the timing of when I think he appeared before the Committee. The new NOMS agency was just about to be formed, I believe, and in April of this year it formed the agency and so that Commissioning and Partnerships Framework was published shortly before the NOMS agency was developed. Essentially the changes which were made in the new NOMS structure was essentially to bring together the delivery components of prison and probation under one executive agency and it is still called the National Offender Management Service but it is an agency of the Ministry of Justice. In doing that we also then very quickly got on with developing the role of the key commissioners in the new delivery agency and they will be directors of offender management and we will have 10 of them—nine in the English regions and one in Wales. That work has now been done and they are currently being recruited—the advertisements are out to recruit them, June and January. So essentially the Commissioning and Partnerships Framework which was developed previously is essentially being reworked to be applicable in the new delivery agency, and it will apply to those roles, the directors of offender management. Essentially there are many common elements to the Commissioning and Partnerships Framework which will roll forward into the new structure, but they are being redeveloped. So what will happen is there will be a commissioning strategy published by the Ministry of Justice, which essentially sets the key principles and parameters within which the delivery agency will operate. Then we will have regional directors who will then essentially implement the delivery of commissioning; they will have the budgets delegated then for a particular region and then they will be responsible for the performance of all prison and probation services within the particular region. So that is where you will create the relationship between NOMS and local delivery partners, both in prisons and probation.

  Q360  Mr Turner: I am somewhat lost following that answer. So the Commissioning and Partnerships Framework is going to be applicable but it is not yet, and the framework is published by the Ministry of Justice; so have things further down already been constructed or are they to follow?

  Ian Porée: I guess the Commissioning and Partnerships Framework is being adapted to be applicable for the reorganised Ministry of Justice and the reorganised NOMS delivery agency. So the basic principles that were laid out in terms of a commissioning system for prison and probation services essentially needed to be re-looked at and to be applicable. Essentially the old NOMS' structure was set up with NOMS in a purchaser role and then you had the prison service as a delivery agency and the probation service at a little bit of an arm's length but still managed from within NOMS. Essentially NOMS is now commissioner and deliverer and the strategy and the priorities are set by the Ministry of Justice. So the Commissioning and Partnerships Framework, as I say, has not been discarded, it has just needed to be adapted to be applicable for the new structures.

  Q361  Chairman: We will park that for a moment and press a little and find out is there any kind of flexibility in the hands of local and regional commissioners under this, so far as I can tell, unpublished new framework? Is there sufficient flexibility there to enable them to do new things or are they going to be struggling to do the basics?

  Ian Porée: There certainly is flexibility. Essentially the design that we have come up with is that you would write a national service specification which focuses on what needs to be delivered, taking into account the outcomes we are trying to achieve and the level of quality of service that we are looking for, and essentially the costing for those services; so you have a clear understanding of what needs to be delivered, what we are trying to achieve and the level of resource allocated to those services. What that then allows at a local level is delivery partners to work out various ways of how they deliver those outcomes, and so the flexibility is in how things are delivered within a set of national specifications and some clear outcomes. So there is flexibility delegated down the delivery chain to a local level and to allow, for example, a local unpaid work service to be adapted to the needs of a local community, so that it appropriately reflects needs at a local level. But it is just done within a set of national agreed standards and a national service specification.

  Q362  Chairman: What are you doing about the Public Accounts Committee's conclusion that the Ministry's current method of funding probation areas is unsatisfactory and slow to respond to changes in demand from the courts. There is a need, they said, for a more flexible system of allocating funding and moving resources between areas in accordance with local need.

  Ian Porée: The description I just gave of a clear national service specification is a programme of work set up directly to respond to that challenge, where we do need to have a very clear understanding of what we are expecting people to achieve in terms of outcomes and delivery. The director of offender management, that I mentioned earlier, has the opportunity to essentially do that moving resource around to get a better fit for local delivery because they would have delegated authority within a particular region, and they would do that with a clear national service specification so that they understand how they are reallocating resource to achieve the desired outcomes. So that flexibility is being built in through specification and costing of services.

  Q363  Chairman: One of the things that concerned both the Public Accounts Committee and ourselves is information and data from which to make these kinds of decisions. The framework itself suggests that not enough is known about the costs of activities or the needs of offenders at local or regional level to support cost and volume commission. Is there really a gap there?

  Ian Porée: There certainly are gaps in the granularity of detail, which again there are a couple of important pieces of information you need in order to commission. One of the pieces of information is clearly an understanding of need and so an assessment of the needs of all the individuals who are receiving services in a particular area, and essentially our needs assessment has focused largely on high and medium risk individuals and we need to extend the coverage of needs assessment to understand at a basic level the needs of every offender in the system. So that is a programme of work to expand needs assessment. The specification and costing programme is developing a more detailed set of information for every service across prison and probation and it will arrive at a costed service specification for every element of service across prison and probation. So, again, that would give us the granular information that you were talking about.

  Q364  Chairman: Is local needs mapping going to play any part in this because that affects not just probation but also crime reduction more generally. Does that fit into this process?

  Ian Porée: Yes. The local needs is a contribution that NOMS makes to a local agenda; so, as you say, in the crime reduction partnerships or the local criminal justice boards you have the opportunity for NOMS to contribute an element of need and provision, information into a local broader pool of information from other agencies and other services. So, yes, certainly the participation in particular of the probation service in those local structures means we ensure that we contribute the local NOMS' specific needs information into that broader pool and then share that clearly with the relevant partners in those structures.

  Q365  Alun Michael: The question of measuring value for money and effectiveness, which are not necessarily the same thing; do you have adequate data to assess cost effectiveness?

  Ian Porée: Again, the service specification is a really important starting point to be clear about what are you trying to deliver and what are you trying to achieve in order to be able to assess how effective it is.

  Q366  Alun Michael: Lots of organisations who would agree with that as a starting point do not have adequate data to measure whether they are actually doing that though.

  Ian Porée: As I say, the fact that we have a large programme to actually develop costed service specifications across prison and probation is evidence that the information we have we think we can improve upon, and so essentially we will complete the full spectrum of services with the necessary detailed information. For example, we do have a good understanding of the cost information to deliver various interventions we have. Some of them are formally accredited interventions and so we would have very good cost information about those sorts of parts of our system and these other parts of our system where we still have a range of costs to deliver a similar set of services. So through the directors of Offender Management we would essentially be removing that variation of cost so that we are clear about the value of service or effectiveness of a service being delivered.

  Q367  Alun Michael: You moved away from talking about cost and effectiveness to just talking about cost.

  Ian Porée: Yes. The effectiveness clearly is understanding a clear set of outcomes that we would want to achieve and is the basis against which we would assess the amount of resource allocated to achieve that outcome.

  Q368  Alun Michael: The outcome is very often related to how you set about doing the work that is aimed at those outcomes; so you cannot separate them out, can you?

  Ian Porée: If the outcome is sustainable employment, as an example of an outcome measure, I think you can achieve that measure through a number of different ways of delivering it. So as I said earlier, we are not constraining how our providers can deliver the service but we are clear about how much resource they are using to achieve it and we are benchmarking those services across prison and probation so that actually not only do we understand what it did cost, we have a sense of how would that benchmark across peer groups deliver a similar service and a similar set of outcomes.

  Q369  Alun Michael: That is all right if you are buying nuts and bolts and you want the shape of the things that you are buying to be the same in every circumstance but there are two problems with that, are there not? One is that what you are purchasing needs to actually produce outcome, so if you are only looking at price and how you commission you do not get there. The other thing is joined-up thinking, so if you are just purchasing one bit—just to give an example, and this is from a few years ago, I saw a centre in Plymouth, the Trevi Centre, that was intervening with young women who were going through the cycle of drugs, and/or alcohol, prostitution, prison, back out again and unable to care for their children. The intervention was about saying if you put these people together in a group for mutual support, where they can have their children and they then have the motivation you can crack that cycle. How would you set about dealing with that sort of issue, which is not just about drug eradication, it is not just about employment, it is not just about children? Do you see what I mean?

  Ian Porée: I absolutely do. Structurally the organisation of the NOMS agency is fundamentally designed to achieve what you have just described, which is actually instead of having silos of prison and probation or through the gate as you may describe it, services are delivered. Essentially we have integrated prison and probation into the NOMS agency. So the director of offender management is responsible for the performance across both prison and probation, no matter who is delivering it. So their performance is not measured on did they have one of the silos in the system doing their bit—and, as you say, do a really good drug treatment service whilst you are in custody but not worry about the fact that when you leave you have not been connected into mainstream support—and they are accountable for the whole performance of prison and probation. So when they allocate the resources which they would have for their region they will be measured against overall performance, much more of an outcome measure. As I have said, from the centre of the NOMS agency we would not be prescribing how you would achieve those outcomes, we would allow some flexibility to invest that resource to achieve a better outcome for those women. The formal measure we are still using is reoffending and so we will be measuring if you have been into the criminal justice system do you get reconvicted again? There is clearly a series of other measures like accommodation, employment and others which are components of a better re-offending outcome.

  Q370  Alun Michael: I question the way that you moved from a question I asked about cost effectiveness to just talking about cost but what you have just said now sounds much more positive in the sense that it sounds as if you are saying you would be measuring outcomes first and cost as a very important element but as secondary in a way to the delivery of outcomes. Did I understand you correctly?

  Ian Porée: That is correct, and so as I was describing the specification programme we had worked out. You have to actually have a look at how someone is delivering something in order to properly cost it, so in their programme we are deconstructing right down to a unit zero based costing of how you would deliver a service, but we are not imposing that delivery model on providers; we are using that as a way to benchmark, to say, "Are you using resource effectively to achieve the outcome?"

  Q371  Alun Michael: So is the starting point to say, "This is the outcome we want" to bidders, and "Tell us how you could achieve that outcome?"

  Ian Porée: That is correct. I must add that for some parts of our service clearly we do specify in a little more detail and with the security systems within prisons we are probably quite specific about how something is treated. Or with some of our whole system measures like how you would assess an offender we need the whole delivery system to use a common methodology because we each need to use it all the way through the delivery chain. So there are some things mandated but by and large the how is the flexibility a provider would have and the what is what we would be clear about.

  Q372  Alun Michael: I understand you. I think what you have said is quite helpful in the last reply and I think what would be helpful to us perhaps is to give us some more detail outside the meeting on how you put those expectations on the commissioners and service providers to be focused on the outcome and measure that those are adequate.

  Ian Porée: I would be happy to do that.

  Q373  Alun Michael: The second thing is—and we have had evidence on this previously—about the complexities involved in partnership approaches. On the other hand we know fully that it is actually only partnership approaches that can really be effective in reducing crime. So how do you see what was described I think by Roger Hill as greater value for partnership arrangements being achieved at a local level? What are the most significant barriers, how do you overcome them, what are the tensions between local priorities and regional commissioning for probation?

  Ian Porée: We have readily agreed with Roger's point that actually we do need to continue to leverage and enhance how we get those partnerships to work. Some of that is some things we can do at the centre which, for example, agreeing common outcome measures for sustainable employment or for accommodation; ensuring that all the big government departments are joined up in terms of what are we trying to achieve in terms of an outcome, and they show up in the various PSAs, and we have targets which mean that you cannot any longer behave just in your central government silo—clearly all of us need to succeed together and reducing re-offending is clearly one of those measures. If you are clear about some of those commitments from all the relevant parts of government—and if I used as an example a set of health outcomes and a set of justice outcomes, both health and justice would end up having some common measures in terms of what success meant all the way through the chain, including at a local level. Essentially what we then enable is for people to work outside of the historical boundaries from within the organisation—they are working to achieve that outcome. So in the probation world—and we are in a process of moving from probation boards to probation trusts. One of the ways you demonstrate that you are an effective trust is that you make use of a full range of partners to deliver effective local services—and I mean very local services. So we would at the centre pay attention to how effectively are you delivering at a local level. Then you do need to be properly engaged with local partners because some of those—I use "unpaid work" again—services are very, very local, small, tiny, voluntarily sector organisations which provide you with those opportunities to have a couple of places for unpaid work in a way that is really serving a local community. So you have the effect of the payback, you have the effect of engagement very locally and local communities see the value of services being delivered like that. So we have a structure clearly embedded in the responsibilities of the director of offender management in the region is to make sure that both regional partnerships are taking place—a little later we will talk about the LSC structure—and the LSC and the NOMS regional structures clearly need to work very closely together to facilitate effective local delivery in each of those regions.

  Q374  Alun Michael: Our current preoccupation is with justice reinvestment and I wonder what scope there is for justice reinvestment within the structure. For instance, do you have the capacity and do you do in practice, going back to the local partners that you have, for instance, and say, "Look, this is the experience that we have of people coming into the probation service or coming into the prison service," and feeding back into the local partnership the evidence of what reaches you. Do you see what I mean?

  Ian Porée: The complexity of our system where essentially the prison system runs a bit more like a national system and the probation system runs very local does mean that that is a challenging balance to achieve in terms of what is working effectively out of the national system. So to give an example, many of the prison governors would release individuals into all of the 42 local probation areas. So finding models which allow you to get from national to local in one seamless step where for the offender it feels like nobody has dropped any of their services or needs in that process is complex. An example is to have—and many of the prisons would have—national employers working in the prison doing prison industry work, training prisoners with a commitment that actually upon release they would guarantee that individual a job, and because they are national employers they can get a job pretty much wherever they are released anywhere around the country. So you begin to have a set of relationships which actually work both at a national and a local level, and the opportunity which now exists with the integration of prison and probation within the new NOMS delivery agency can facilitate that seamless handover of having the kinds of partners who can get you from national to local. Some of those clearly would be regional to local because there are some big regional employer bodies who actually allow you to have the same kind of effect from regional to local.

  Q375  Julie Morgan: A number of the Members of the Committee are from Wales and obviously there is another structure in Wales. Could you tell us how that works in terms of partnership working?

  Ian Porée: From the NOMS agency perspective we will have a director of offender management in Wales and clearly their role is slightly different to some of their English counterparts because actually they do need to be properly engaged in the Welsh Assembly Government's priorities and obviously some of the services are slightly different. But from our perspective we would see most of our national service specifications being relevant for delivery of services within Wales, simply because actually we are not down at the level of specifying how you would deliver them; we have been clear about the outcomes we are trying to achieve. In that sense the NOMS structures will facilitate a very similar delivery of outcomes even though there are clear different in terms of how services are funded in the English regions and in Wales. Of course many of the offenders are not ring fenced geographically within Wales—they have probably spent a lot of their time in prisons in England and then are resettled back into Wales. So the complexity of again a national versus a local system means that it probably would not be fair to those individuals to receive a completely different level of service whilst they are in an English prison, simply because their release location is back to Wales. So in that sense the standardisation of the system is probably the fairest way of running the system. There are nuances in terms of specific services with regard to skills and health which are different between England and Wales, but by and large the delivery design is to still be clear about some commons that we are trying to achieve with all offenders because those are based upon our best evidence to date of what works.

  Q376  Julie Morgan: Is the partnership with the Welsh Assembly Government formal? Is there a formal structure?

  Ian Porée: Wales and London were the first two areas or regions where we started straight away within the NOMS agency with a director of offender management, so we have essentially piloted the role in London and Wales and, as you can imagine, those are two very different jobs in NOMS. But we have learnt a considerable amount from piloting them and so the current director of offender management for Wales has a very strong working relationship—she has located herself essentially within the Assembly Government's structures and works very closely embedded in that region. That is the value of the regional director role with responsibilities in the region and then they are tasked with making sure that the local delivery structures work. There are a handful of prisons and a number of probation areas in Wales.

  Q377  Julie Morgan: I know that she is based in the Assembly Government but is there a formal arrangement about how she relates to the Assembly Government? Are there any joint ministerial groups or anything like that?

  Ian Porée: She is definitely represented on a number of committees but I would be happy to give you more detail on exactly how she has set up her structures.

  Chairman: It is only fair to point out that Mrs Morgan is married to the First Minister, but you are probably aware of that.

  Julie Morgan: I should declare that, should I?

  Chairman: I have done it for you! Mr Heath has a supplementary question before I turn to Mrs Riordan.

  Q378  Mr Heath: It is touching on what you have just been speaking about, Mr Porée. I understand regional structures in probation; what I do not really understand is given that the prison population is thrown around in this kaleidoscope of the national prison service, so that people are moved around constantly in the prison estate, how you can possibly derive any meaningful assessments of effectiveness in the service when actually nobody has effective ownership of the service being provided to an individual. I suspect within the prison service, and I am still not convinced but perhaps you can convince me, that there is real continuity even within the prison estate of the sort of educational opportunities and school opportunities that prisoners are being given.

  Ian Porée: The performance of that system—and I include whether it is the prison system or the probation system—shows that over the last number of years we have year on year significant improvements in reducing the levels of re-offending. So we have reduced the levels by 23% through the system you have just described which, as you say, is a very full to capacity prison system, having necessarily to move people about to cope with the very full prison system. So is that the most effective way of delivering rehabilitation and reform for offenders? Clearly that is not the most effective way. The outcome measures are that even with all those complicated operational challenges running the system at maximum capacity we are having a significant improvement in terms of the re-offending levels within the prison system. So it is a very impressive performance to achieve those levels of reduced re-offending. But does that mean, now that 39% of the population still re-offend, that is good enough? Clearly there is a lot more we can do to reduce that number further because that 39% represents a significant number of people churning through the system and re-offending. So your description that regional is not entirely meaningful if the individual is nowhere near the region they are from and could have moved through several geographic regions within their time during the prison system—

  Q379  Mr Heath: Or within a week.

  Ian Porée: Or within a week, with London being probably the biggest culprit of displacing volume through the system and it pushes people to the Midlands and from the Midlands further north. The complexity of how do you find a space when you run a system at maximum capacity is clearly a huge challenge.

  Mr Heath: The logical position would be to have some form of regional prison service which is approximately conterminous with the probation service and where the offender actually serves their time in their region, would it not? That would be the way it would work most effectively.

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