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

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 413 - 419)



  Q413  Chairman: Welcome to Ms Edghill from Southampton City Council and Mr Rickard from Tower Hamlets Council. Unfortunately, Detective Superintendent Rose from West Yorkshire is not well and cannot join us this afternoon. We have asked you each, rather than plying you with questions, to tell us briefly, in just a few minutes, some of the things we need to know from your own experience which we would be really interested to hear.

  Denise Edghill: Yes, I suppose for about the last five years or so we have been very engaged in working with offenders to enable them to progress to a level of skills and employment, but when you take a holistic approach across, what they call, the "seven reduced re-offending pathways", so looking at accommodation, substance misuse and other issues, but with the ultimate aim of getting people into work because all the research shows that having a job is the single biggest factor in reducing offending. All of the projects have been funded through European sources, relating back to the previous point, and we have a very, very small amount of European funding now and I was not aware of any Engage funding, so that is something we need to consider.

  Q414  Chairman: So you have a small amount of European funding now?

  Denise Edghill: A very small amount. We have looked into other sources which I can tell you more about, but over the last four years or so we have worked with about 1,500 offenders, 60% have progressed to learning and work, but something we were very, very keen to do, which I think is fairly unique, is look at police data for re-offending because quite often it is quite anecdotal around whether somebody re-offended or not, and often it will be around skills they have acquired, but not the longitudinal study. A year ago we shared the details of 600 offenders at that point that we had worked with, and that was not being selective, that was all the offenders we worked with at that point, so it was their names and addresses and the dates that we started working with them. Hampshire Constabulary sent us back `anonymised' data on all of those offenders which showed that, in the year before we worked with them, they collectively committed around 1,800 crimes and, in the year after, that reduced to 600. Now, there are all sorts of ways you can analyse that in terms of the cost of re-offending and what impact we have made. Not all of them would have re-offended, something like 70% would have done, because, on the whole, the offenders we work with have been the prolific offenders and those serving sentences of less than 12 months who do not get any support from Probation when they are released from custody because our local prison, Winchester Prison, tends to work with those types of offenders, so, if we say that 70% would have re-offended, we extrapolate. We did produce a case study for the Treasury and we do feel that we can evidence that we have saved £25 million with those 600 offenders, and that is not at all looking at things like state benefits which have been saved if they are in employment, it is not the cost of taking their children into care if they go into prison, the cost of the crime or all sorts of other factors which we have not included, but it is just the prison place and the criminal justice costs. Our approach, I think we have found, being a local authority, is unique because we can bring together the planning and commissioning side of things, so, whilst we focus on employment and training, we can also look at the housing, the substance misuse, the other support issues, and integrate things. Something else we have done which is very innovative is that we have used our planning processes to influence Section 106 planning provision so that, when we have new developments coming into the city, we can work with developers and end users to actually ensure that they are committed to providing opportunities for local people, not exclusively offenders, but offenders being amongst them. For example, we have just had—

  Q415  Chairman: You put a 106 agreement on an employer to say that—

  Denise Edghill: That they must comply or they are in breach of contract. For example, we have just had an Ikea being built in Southampton, so we work with Ikea on opportunities for local people, including offenders. Construction has been a big opportunity and, without stereotyping too much, most offenders are young men and construction has been an opportunity for offenders, so we have had a lot of success in getting people into construction jobs through working with developers and working with end users. There is lots more I could talk about, but really the headline for us is that we have got the police data which, I think, a lot of other employment and training providers have not been able to access, and it does actually show that we have made a significant difference. The frustration is that we have not got any, with the last figures we are talking about, ESF, European Social Fund, opportunities to pilot different approaches and we feel we have piloted it several times, but the mainstream opportunity does not seem to come, so that is one of the frustrations. That is my side of things.

  Q416  Chairman: Thank you very much. Mr Rickard?

  Paul Rickard: The London Borough of Tower Hamlets is a beacon authority this year for reducing re-offending and that accolade was gained, I think, largely because of the authority's approach to including all categories of offenders in its programme and to filling the gaps which are missed by the other statutory services, so the programme concentrates very heavily on non-statutory offenders, the offenders that Denise has mentioned who have sentences of less than a 12-month period. The reason we arrived at the conclusion that this was the right group of people to work with is we were approached by the then Office of the Regional Offender Managers to take part in a pilot study or a pilot resettlement programme in Holloway Prison. When we looked at the data that they presented to us, we found a great resonance with the data on social exclusion and the number of non-statutory offenders who were coming back into the borough unsupported to want to extend that work and to expand it to other prisons, and we duly did that. Something like 45% of the Tower Hamlets people in prison in London are on remand and receive no services and, of those sentences, 65% of those are sentenced to periods of less than 12 months and would, under normal circumstances, return to the borough without services, so we felt that it was incumbent upon the local authority, knowing what we do about social exclusion partly from the data that was presented to us, partly from the published data in the Social Exclusion Report and so on, to take that issue seriously and to start thinking about providing those services. Tower Hamlets is one of the poorest boroughs in Britain, it has a very, very high rate of worklessness, something like around 35% at the moment, and a quarter of all the families in the borough live on less than £15,000 a year and there are very poor levels of skills amongst the work force and so on, so it is very important for us, this work. We see it as a core part of our social responsibility to deal with this group of people, and we have done so by building a resettlement programme which actually actively goes into the prisons, and we started with Pentonville, Brixton and Holloway as our core prisons, and we go in to find the people who will be coming out. That may seem like a simple thing to do, but it is actually much more complex than really it ought to be because we have to trawl around in the prison with a caseworker looking for people because prisons do not, as a routine, keep the information about where people are returning to. That is starting to change, but the performance in relation to that in various prisons is certainly very patchy and variable from time to time, so, for example, we may get 30 referrals from a prison in one month and one in another and it is difficult to believe, in a large establishment, that that would be reflecting the number of people who are coming back into the borough, so that is a constant struggle. What we have identified by doing this project, and we have been running a programme off and on now for a year because we were in and out of various prisons with security issues and the like, but we have been running a programme for about a year and we have identified extremely high levels of need amongst the people who are coming into contact with the programme, much higher than we would have expected even from the Social Exclusion Report, which did look at need across all offenders, and particularly high amongst women. What I think was most noticeable about the women was that something like 80% of the women were also victims of crime, either domestic violence or some form of sexual abuse, and that, I think, was a spur to doing further work in terms of building capacity in the community, which we really see as the other arm of this programme because we are not in a position resource-wise to have a whole series of services specifically for ex-offenders. Where we can, we do, and we run an NVQ scheme for ex-offenders, which is NVQ3, by the way, not NVQ2, and we have no problem filling that, so we have high expectations for the people we come into contact with, but, in the main, we are looking at mainstream services, we are looking at mainstream health services and so on, to provide for need, mainstream drug services and mainstream benefit services. We do attempt to facilitate employment, and I think, to some extent, we need to focus on employment, it is a very important factor, it is one of a number of important factors, it is not the only one, so accommodation is certainly a key factor and access to families has been identified time and again as being a key factor in reducing re-offending. We have just started a children and families project with an organisation in the Thames Valley who have been doing this work for some time, so we are using the benefit of experience elsewhere. Our programme is provided through the third sector, so I programme-managed the programme, but I am the local authority employee and everything else is provided through the third sector and that gives us the opportunity to bring in specific expertise. I think it goes down better with ex-offenders themselves, that the programme is not run by a statutory agency, they tend to find it easier to relate to people from the third sector, and we have also requested of our third-sector partners that they bring in additional funding with them as part of their contractual obligations, and they have been, in most cases, successful in doing that. There have been many issues around funding and it would be remiss of me not to mention them. We are constantly having to find, and I certainly agree with Mike Stewart's suggestion, that the money should be put in a pot and given to local authorities, but unfortunately we are at the opposite end of the spectrum to that where we receive no earmarked funding for this project whatsoever, and the only reason we have managed to sustain the project over a second year, and we do not know about the third and fourth years yet, but we are certainly bidding for that, it is because we have persistently made the case with the elected members and we have made the case with many organisations in the borough that this is important work and we have formed partnerships around that, but we have to cobble together the money every year for doing this. Not only is that time-consuming, but it is not particularly welcome that there is absolutely no central government money for that. Other problems that we have faced, I have mentioned the problem around the prisons and really there is a resource issue with prisons about whether people, even where prisons participate in centrally organised pilots, there is still an issue about resources being put to identifying people coming back into boroughs, that has been a major issue. There are problems about fluctuating resources generally and access to mainstream services. We have made great strides, I think, with developing partners in the PCT, in benefit services and so on who have come on board and who have been persuaded by our arguments, but initially we found that there were very serious access issues, particularly around health, for example, and very little awareness of the needs of ex-offenders and the extent of those needs and their complexity and how that would impact on their ability to access mainstream services, so that has been a major piece of work for us and it has borne some fruit in terms of the partnerships that we have been able to develop. One thing I perhaps ought to mention at the end is that the current situation with end of custody licence, or ECL, as it is commonly known, is particularly unhelpful for us in our focus on non-statutory offenders because 80% of the people released on end of custody licence are non-statutory offenders and unfortunately two of our most important prisons, Pentonville and Holloway, seem to have a much higher percentage of people released. This is to do with the churn in the system, the fact that people must be released in order to make way for people coming in. That means that many resettlement efforts that we have made come to nought because we cannot access those people and we might turn up at the prison to meet them at the gates and they have already gone because they have been released.

  Q417  Chairman: You cannot access them for what reason?

  Paul Rickard: Because they have been released 18 days early, so sometimes we hear about a person, but some, when we get to them, they have already been released. For people on very short sentences, that is quite common.

  Q418  Chairman: Does that mean that, whereas previously you were notified of their release date, when an early release comes in, you are not re-notified that they are coming out early?

  Paul Rickard: No, we would not be re-notified. The system of ECL seems to be very chaotic and very ad hoc. It seems to be organised on a day to day basis, so that is very unhelpful indeed in terms of actually providing a service to people.

  Q419  Alun Michael: That last point that you have made is a very telling one and it fits also with something that you referred to earlier about the inconsistency of referrals from prison. In both of those cases, is there a real reason, in other words, is somebody putting obstructions, I do not know, for data protection reasons or something like that, or is it simply incompetence or a systems failure?

  Paul Rickard: I think it is many different factors. Certainly data protection does have an influence and different prisons take a different view on who should be referred to the programme or not. One thing that does have a large influence is the experience of the caseworker. We find that, when the caseworker has been in position for some time, they build up a network of contacts within the authority whereby we are able to hear about referrals to, or people being released in, the borough from a number of different sources, and we can match those up and make up quite a decent caseload for the month. If it is the case, as at the moment, that we have some reasonably inexperienced people and we are reliant upon one or two resettlement individuals, it does not work so well, so I think what that indicates is that the systems inside the prisons are not very robust. Together they have the data, the various elements, the housing element, perhaps the resettlement team and so on, and together they certainly have access to the data, but whether we see it or not is—

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