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


1. The implementation of offender management and the success of Public Service Agreement 23 in reducing re-offending rely on addressing a range of offender needs and ensuring that resources are available at local level to provide interventions which meet those needs.


2. Cross-departmental development to reduce re-offending has focused predominantly on prison health (including mental health and drug treatment) and prisoner learning and skills, responsibility and funding for which transferred from the Prison Service to the National Health Service (NHS) in 2003 (followed by Primary Care Trusts by April 2006) and to the Learning and Skills Council (LSC) in 2006 respectively. The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health (SCMH) highlighted the Government's emphasis on offending behaviour programmes which seek to overcome cognitive deficits that may give rise to offending rather than other more practical needs.[722]

Prison health and mental health

3. The Government spent approximately £200 million on prison health services in 2006-07, representing a substantial increase on the £118 million spent by the prison service in 2002-03.[723] The annual allocation for NHS mental health in-reach services in prisons has more than doubled from £9.4 million in 2003-04 to around £20 million.[724] Savas Hadjipavlou, then Head of the Health Policy and Strategy Unit at the Ministry of Justice, told us that while this funding has enabled the health service to move forward considerably in provision for health and mental health in custody, the scale of need continues to far exceed provision.[725] This is supported by research from the SCMH which indicates that there are significant disparities in the funding of prison mental health services across England and that these services get only one-third of the money they need to address the mental health problems of prisoners.[726] It is difficult to ascertain whether there have been any improvements in outcomes for offenders, for example, greater access to services, as a result of greater spending on prison healthcare.[727]

Learning and skills

4. The Offender Learning and Skills Service (OLASS) is organised on a regional basis and applies to England only, with devolved arrangements for education and training in Wales negotiated between the Director of Offender Management for Wales and the Welsh Assembly Government. Like health, funding for offender learning has increased substantially in recent years, from £59.4 million in 2002-03 to £161.7 million in 2008-09, in addition to investment in capital infrastructure to provide suitable education and training facilities in prisons. Jon Gamble of the National Learning and Skills Council (LSC) explained the dramatic effect that this funding has had on Ofsted assessments of the quality of learning and skills provision: prior to OLASS 75% of the existing learning and skills service were judged by Ofsted to be unsatisfactory, now 80% of provision is deemed to be satisfactory or better.[728] However, again, there is limited evidence of the impact that the additional funding has had on outcomes. While many more prisoners have been awarded education and skills qualifications, the NAO was unable to assess whether OLASS made any additional contribution to reducing rates of re-offending due to lack of data related to the period preceding its establishment.[729]

5. There are also questions over the extent to which this provision meets the needs of offenders. We heard from RL Glasspool Charity Trust that, as a result of limited statutory funding for support for offenders to enter employment (known as Custody to Work) either in prisons or in the community, its trustees are increasingly being asked to provide funding which they believe should rightly be the dominion of the state.[730] Ian Porée, Director of Commissioning and Operational Policy, National Offender Management Service (NOMS), acknowledged that prisons do not have the capacity to provide enough work placements or places on learning and skills courses.[731] Jon Gamble confirmed that approximately 50% of offenders in custody engage in learning and skills provision in any one year.[732] This was supported by the NAO, which also found that where prisoners do have the opportunity to do education and training courses they often do not complete them because they are transferred between different institutions, a problem exacerbated by overcrowding in the prison estate. [733] According to the Prisoners' Education Trust, 41% of prisoners who fail to complete a course do so as a result of being moved to another prison.[734]

Offending behaviour programmes

6. The number of prisoners who commence offending behaviour programmes[735] each year has fallen since 2003/04 but these figures have recently begun to rise again, standing at almost 9,400 in 2007-08.[736] Is not possible to separate the cost of these programmes from the core prison and probation budgets.[737] As with offender learning and skills, whilst a high proportion of prisoners complete their offending behaviour programmes, the NAO encountered difficulties in determining the impact their completion has on reducing re-offending.[738] The Ministry of Justice confirmed that this accords with other UK research, despite international evidence to support the effectiveness of such programmes in prison.[739] The 2002 NAO study, Reducing Prisoner Re-offending, provides a potential explanation for this, finding that rapid expansion of programme provision had been carried out without a clear idea of how such programmes complemented other activities. It also found that it was difficult for the prison service to assess the full cost of providing programmes and whether the existing mix of programmes provided value for money.[740] This research was conducted prior to developments in reducing re-offending policy and the establishment of NOMS, however the NAO has recently revisited this work and found evidence that problems in assessing cost-effectiveness remain.[741] The research concluded that key drivers of effectiveness in reducing re-offending include basic factors such as the quality of a prison's regime, staff skills, the stability of a prison population, and arrangements for resettlement. These drivers may be undermined at present by the "churn" of prisoners caused by overcrowding and the movement of prisoners between different institutions.

Drug treatment

7. Prison drug treatment has seen the biggest rate of increase in funding of all the 'pathways' which have the potential to reduce re-offending; the budget was £92 million in 2008/09 and it is set to increase by at least £20 million over the next 3 years.[742] As a result, according to the Ministry of Justice, the volume and quality of drug treatment has improved, record numbers of prisoners are engaging in treatment and there have been significant reductions in the proportion of prisoners testing positive for drugs.[743] The Government commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to conduct a review of how existing resources for prison drug treatment could be used more effectively. The report, published in December 2007, painted a now familiar picture, namely that performance indicators related to the volume of activity rather than quality and outcome, and that the demand for prison-based drug treatment exceeds supply.[744]


Drug treatment

8. Combined funding from the Department of Health, the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice for commissioning community drugs treatment[745] increased from £142m in 2001 to £398m in 2007/08.[746] This is supplemented by mainstream funding from the Department of Health; funding for residential drug treatment can also come via local authority community care budgets. Drug treatment in England is provided by networks of services, rather than by individual organisations, and is commissioned by "drug action teams", some of which are integrated into crime and disorder reduction partnerships. In Wales provision is made through community safety partnerships.

9. Research commissioned by the Home Office found that community drug treatment is more cost effective than putting offenders through the criminal justice system repeatedly without support to help them address their drug problem—for every £1 spent on drug treatment, at least £9.50 is saved in health and crime costs.[747] Drug action teams received £110 million from the Home Office in 2007-08 to support delivery of the Drug Interventions Programme (DIP), (formerly the Criminal Justice Interventions Programme), a national initiative aimed at directing drug misusing offenders out of crime and into treatment.[748] The Ministry of Justice provides an additional £22 million to fund drug treatment and testing for offenders who are subject to locally commissioned drug treatment at the behest of the court.[749]

10. The number of offenders entering drug treatment through the criminal justice system has increased from 438 per month in March 2004 to over 4,000 a month since January 2008.[750] This represents 48,000 entrants to treatment per year. While this represents a considerable improvement, the Home Office has predicted that it would be possible to achieve a 15% reduction in crime if there were 200,000 placements in drug treatment per year.[751]

Alcohol treatment

11. In May 2006, the National Probation Service published Working with Alcohol Misusing Offenders—A strategy for delivery, which complements Addressing Alcohol Misuse—a Prison Service Alcohol Strategy for Prisoners, published in December 2004, in order to create a NOMS strategy to tackle alcohol misuse by offenders. According to the Government this provides NOMS "with a coherent framework for tackling alcohol misuse which is evidence-based, and will lead to greater consistency and coordination of delivery"[752]. The Government's Alcohol Harm Reduction Strategy for England outlines a number of additional measures to reduce alcohol-related crime, including referral to treatment at the point of arrest and programmes to reduce violence in some alcohol-related violent crime areas, for example, alcohol misuse enforcement campaigns and the tackling violent crime programme.

12. The Alcohol Needs Assessment Research project found a high level of unmet need for treatment for alcohol-related disorders and identified large variations in the level of provision for dependent drinkers across the country.[753] The Department of Health subsequently published several guidance documents to encourage local areas to assess local needs, identify gaps and develop partnership strategies to develop local interventions for dependent drinkers. Despite the plethora of guidance alcohol treatment remains the poor relation to drug treatment, both generally and in relation to provision for offenders.

Employment, learning and skills

13. OLASS, led by the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), also has a remit to ensure that offenders in England have access to learning and skills in the community, although progress to date has focused predominantly on custodial provision. NOMS Wales has recently transferred responsibility for offender learning in Wales to the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills. The Department for Work and Pensions has responsibility for raising the employment rates of offenders as one of the least qualified and most disadvantaged groups in the labour market. Offenders are a priority group for support into employment by Job Centre Plus.

14. Jon Gamble admitted that there was an under-use of the LSC's learning and skills resources for offenders.[754] He explained that whilst the Council, with total funding of £4 billion, has the capacity to deliver much more to offenders in the community, it is difficult for community learning providers to identify those serving a community sentence, unless they are referred by probation. Denise Edghill, of Southampton City Council argued that there is very little suitable provision for offenders in the community.[755] Mike Stewart, Director of the Centre for Economic and Social Inclusion, agreed questioning the suitability of mainstream provision for many offenders who typically have very low basic skills and probably require additional learning support.[756] Between 2000 and 2006 the European Social Fund made available substantial funding for tailored support for offenders to access specialist and mainstream learning and skills. The projects funded illustrated the potential benefits of taking a more comprehensive approach to meeting offenders' needs.[757]

Mental health

15. Department of Health funding to improve mental health provision for offenders has also focused predominantly on care for prisoners.[758] The Government has expressed an aspiration to develop "integrated, evidence-based services which help reduce social exclusion, and improve the health, well-being and rehabilitation of those coming into contact with the criminal justice system in line with NHS and social care standards", although it is unclear where the additional resources will come from to implement this.[759]

722   Ev 292  Back

723   Q 307 Back

724   HC Deb, 25 June 2008, col 366W [Commons written answer]  Back

725   Q 308 Back

726   Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, Short-changed: spending on prison mental health care, May 2008  Back

727   Q 309 Back

728   Q 385 Back

729   National Audit Office, Meeting Needs? The Offenders' Learning and Skills Service, March 2008 Back

730   Ev 287-289 Back

731   Qq 393, 394 Back

732   Q 393 Back

733   Ev 230 Back

734   Prisoners' Education Trust, Brain Cells: listening to prison learners, March 2009 Back

735   Rehabilitation programmes designed to identify the reasons why offenders offend and reduce and monitor these factors. Back

736   HC Deb, 17 December 2008, col 849W [Commons written answer] Back

737   HC Deb, 3 March 2009, col1508W [Commons written answer] Back

738   Ev 230 Back

739   HC Deb, 26 January 2009, col 204W [Commons written answer] Back

740   National Audit Office, HM Prison Service: Reducing Prisoner Re-offending, 2002 Back

741   Ev 230 Back

742   HC Deb, 20 February 2009, col 1342W [Commons written answer] Back

743   Ev 198; HC Deb, 18 March 2009, col 1214W [Commons written answer] Back

744   PricewaterhouseCoopers, Review of Prison-Based Drug Treatment Funding, December 2007  Back

745   This is known as the pooled treatment budget and is ring-fenced Back

746   Ev 198  Back

747   NHS National Treatment Agency for Substance Misuse, National Treatment Agency Business Plan 2008-09, 2008 Back

748   HC Deb, 27 March 2008, col 353W Back

749   Ibid. Back

750   Home Office, Autumn Performance Report 2008, p.23 Back

751   Home Office, Modelling Crime Reduction for the Home Office's Strategic Plan: economic and resource analysis, 2004, 38/04 Back

752   HM Government, Safe, Sensible, Social: The next steps in the National Alcohol Strategy, June 2007. Back

753   Department of Health, Alcohol Needs Assessment Research Project: the 2004 national alcohol needs assessment for England, November 2005 Back

754   Q 393 Back

755   Q 421 Back

756   Q 400 Back

757   Qq 391, 400 Back

758   Department of Health, Offender mental health care pathway, January 2005 Back

759   Department of Health, Improving Health, Supporting Justice, 2007, p 9 Back

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