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


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 420 - 424)

TUESDAY 11 NOVEMBER 2008

DENISE EDGHILL AND PAUL RICKARD

  Q420  Alun Michael: As a matter of interest, because at the moment we have got this sort of panic about data which is due to a lot of problems that come out of inappropriate and incompetent handling of data, not because sharing data is wrong, have you noticed any deterioration, I suppose is the question, or has it always been this bad?

  Paul Rickard: No, I think it is variable and there does not seem to be any pattern to the variability, I am afraid to say, so it is quite hard to identify why that should happen. I think there are some issues around data and we have encouraged prisons to use encrypted data when they are sending it to us, which was not always the case, but I understand the prisons' reticence, especially in the light of recent events, in some cases to share the data and they feel that prisoners ought to give a consent to being approached by a resettlement agency and sometimes they do not, but we feel that they should be persuaded.

  Q421  Alun Michael: Yes, absolutely.

  Denise Edghill: In terms of data referrals as well, I think one of the gaps is around those on community sentences in that, for example, with OLASS it is predominantly for people in custody and there is very little provision for those in the community. The assumption that they will attend mainstream provision, basically what they provide for most of the need is some sort of stepping stone of a mentor or somebody who will guide them through and support them, and also colleges still really have most of their intake in September, so, if somebody is released at any other time of the year, they have to wait and then what are they going to do, so it is those sorts of things which, I think, need addressing rather more in the future around community sentences and support for people in the community.

  Q422  Alun Michael: You gave the figures of reduced offending by individuals, and that is not to say that the offending has stopped, but that the offending has reduced and the figures were very significant, I thought, they were very telling. One of the things that concerns me is that the methodology seems to stand in the way in that, if you find something that works, then you go and do something different. Have you seen signs of interest in picking up on the methodology that you use there, and incidentally what seems intelligent use of data, and you talked about providing the information of who you have been working with and getting depersonalised information back which seems an intelligent way of responding, is that being taken up with any enthusiasm?

  Denise Edghill: We were very hopeful a year ago when we got this, that it was going to generate, and I suppose it is always finding what you are looking for to continue things, to locally integrate services, it is a bespoke thing, and we have presented to a number of forums and, so far, no. I would also like to add that, in terms of the data, of the nearly 600 people at that point, 100 were `MAPPAs' so that is people who are public protection subjects and prolific and priority offenders, so that is a fair chunk of serious offenders who were supported.

  Alun Michael: Perhaps I can suggest that the two of you might undertake a project for this Committee by listening to what was said earlier about the new forms of commissioning in the Probation Service and going to those who gave evidence and testing it out and then letting us know whether the problems you have referred to in funding are, therefore, solved. It would be ever so nice if that was the case.

  Q423  Julie Morgan: I thought that your two presentations were very encouraging and certainly showed what can be done if you have got the resources. I was really interested in what you were doing with women, and I think you said that you found huge need and problems particularly in comparison, presumably, with the men. What do you actually do to deal with that?

  Paul Rickard: I think the needs of women, mainly in Holloway for us, that is our main prison, and for most of London that would be the case as well, we find that the rate of re-offending is quite eye-watering. One of the caseworkers mentioned to me that half the women she sees spend half their time in prison and half out, and the rate of turnaround was something like two or three weeks, so it is an enormous rate of re-offending and some of these people are amongst the most needy and vulnerable people we have come into contact with, there is no doubt about that at all. What is often the case is that we do not engage with these people until the third or fourth time, and it is only when the caseworker's face has been seen by that particular individual three or four times and sometimes more that we can begin to engage, and that is why sometimes simple measures of re-offending do not express clearly the work that is being done. The first thing we would do, again I think the importance of employment is perhaps overstating it in some of the cohorts of prisoners that we see, and what these women need is accommodation first and foremost and safe accommodation. Again, we have a situation where end of custody licences are encouraging people to say that they have a safe place to go to when they do not so that they can be released, so the first port of call for us is a criminal justice housing worker who has a special remit within the homelessness department to deal with ex-offenders, but a particular remit also to find emergency accommodation for women because this is, I think, the key factor in providing any other service. We cannot persuade these women to register with GPs or to access drugs services or to try and claim benefit, which many of them do not do, until we have managed to find them accommodation, so that is really the first port of call for us, and we put in place emergency beds to make that happen and a greater allocation of beds amongst the hostel places in Tower Hamlets as well, particularly for women.

  Q424  Chairman: I am afraid we are going to have to draw the proceedings to a close, but actually there is a question which I did have in my mind. It seems to me that you have both got supportive local authorities and have managed somehow to embed this kind of work so that, although it is not mainstream-funded, you have got your local authorities recognising that it is central to the success of much else of what they do. Is that so?

  Denise Edghill: That is so, but I think in our case, because our learning and skills employment provision is alongside that for other groups, we are heavily reliant on short-term funding, so, no matter how supportive the local authority is, it does not have that level of funding to dedicate to this.

  Paul Rickard: We have to keep up the pressure, I think, on the local authority and on the elected members and keep the profile of this programme very high. Being a beacon authority this year certainly helps and we hope that we will continue to be that next year, but a large part of my work is to go round various parts of the borough, talking about this work and `bigging up' the project, which I think is a very important aspect of keeping it high on the agenda.

  Chairman: Well, thank you both very much indeed. It has been a short session, but an extremely informative and very encouraging one as well, so many thanks.






 
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