Justice Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 640

Back to Report

Oral Evidence

Taken before the Justice Committee

on Tuesday 8 October 2013

Members present:

Sir Alan Beith (Chair)

Jeremy Corbyn

Nick de Bois

Gareth Johnson

Mr Elfyn Llwyd

Andy McDonald

Yasmin Qureshi

Graham Stringer


Examination of Witness

Witness: Paul McDowell, preferred candidate for HM Chief Inspector of Probation, gave evidence.

Chair: Mr McDowell, welcome. You come to us as the preferred candidate for the Chief Inspector of Probation-preferred, that is, by the Secretary of State. We welcome you to this hearing. If any members have any direct personal knowledge of you, they ought to declare it.

Yasmin Qureshi: No.

Q1 Chair: Could you introduce yourself to us and tell us a little bit about your professional background? We have your CV, of course, but there may be things you want to emphasise.

Paul McDowell: Of course. Thank you very much for the invite this morning. I am delighted to be here and honoured to be selected as the preferred candidate.

My background is fairly straightforward. I have spent the last 24 years working in criminal justice. I spent nearly 20 years working in the Prison Service, latterly as prison governor of HMP Coldingley in Surrey and then as governor of Brixton prison, which was my last post in the Prison Service. I then left the Prison Service to join Nacro as chief executive. I have managed that organisation through some interesting times in the last four years for charities. As I am sure many of you will know, Nacro is the largest crime reduction charity in the country. It is engaged in a range of interventions to help to prevent crime and reoffending.

Q2 Chair: There are two particular sides to your experience. There is the Nacro period, when you were in charge of an organisation delivering services designed to reduce reoffending, and prior to that your period as a prison governor. What do you see as your achievements as a prison governor?

Paul McDowell: I viewed myself very much as a reforming prison governor. I was very focused on the regime in the prisons that I was working in and ran. I was very interested in developing the way in which relationships and interactions took place between prison staff and prisoners, and in developing the quality of the regime in those prisons. That was challenging in a different way depending on the particular prison I was working in. Doing that in HMP Coldingley was a real pleasure, because of the quality of the buildings and the fact that you could get everybody engaged in work, activity and good-quality education and focused on resettlement. When you are governor of Brixton, that is a very different matter, with very difficult buildings, limitations on your resources and a different cohort of offenders to deal with. However, that was always my focus as a prison governor.

Q3 Chair: As a prison governor, you will have been on the receiving end of inspections. What do you learn about inspection from that process?

Paul McDowell: The first thing I always knew was that it is really important when you are on the receiving end to feel that it is fair. You want to know that the process is open, transparent and fair. If the outcome is not what you had hoped, as long as you believe the process to have been fair and you get very clear outcomes, and that guides the actions that you then take, it is a process you are very happy and content to engage in.

Q4 Chair: You may have heard Nick Hardwick on the radio this morning talking about the inspection that he has just completed. He drew attention to the difference between being shown round by the governor and actually carrying out an inspection-and the very different picture that you get.

Paul McDowell: My apologies, Chair-I should have said that I wear hearing aids. There is quite a distance between us, so I did not quite catch what you said there.

Chair: We have the same problem, because the acoustics in this room are quite difficult. On the radio this morning, Nick Hardwick, the chief inspector of prisons, described the fact that there is a difference between being shown round a prison by the governor and carrying out an inspection. When you were part of the inspection process, did you learn things that you did not expect to learn from it? When you were a prison governor, you were inspected and got a report from HMI. Did you learn things that surprised you?

Paul McDowell: I think I got the question. When I was the governor of a prison, did I learn things as a consequence of inspection that surprised me? Was that the question?

Chair: Yes, that is right.

Paul McDowell: Often. You learn some real lessons about how you yourself govern, because as the governor of a prison you don’t see into all corners at all times and know all of the things that are going on. There were a few processes that would be applied to you when you were a prison governor that helped you learn about your own style of management and your own establishment, and that enabled you to think about what you should do next. Inspection was absolutely key-fundamental-to that process, but there were other processes as well. When you were audited, you would learn different sorts of lessons, but you would take learning from those processes.

I had some very interesting experiences when I was inspected as governor of Brixton. It was very interesting to take the learning from inspectors who had themselves been prison governors but were now seeing things from a slightly different viewpoint. I remember very well that I turned up very early in the morning, thinking that I would make absolutely sure that my troops were in place, doing the right things, and that we were unlocked on time, only to find that the lead inspector was already standing on the 3s in A wing, was ahead of me and was already watching what was going on. It was a very interesting process to watch. Of course, he was able to look at it from an entirely different angle. It is always really important to take the learning from those experiences.

Q5 Nick de Bois: Can we turn to the probation service? Essentially, what is your view of the role of probation?

Paul McDowell: The role of the probation service is fairly straightforward. They have a responsibility for public protection. As far as I am concerned, they have a responsibility to deliver interventions that achieve reducing reoffending. So they have a broad responsibility to reduce crime and protect the public through risk assessment processes.

Q6 Nick de Bois: If we are to dig a little bit, what is your present view of the operations carried out by probation? Also, what are your thoughts on the decision-making process within probation?

Paul McDowell: If I can, I want to apply that to what I might do from an inspection point of view, if I were given the opportunity, because I have some views on the way in which the probation interventions are applied. I have a concern, for instance, that all too often those interventions are hidden away in probation offices and are not engaged properly with communities. I have a view that I have developed particularly in the last four years as chief executive of Nacro that, if you do not engage with the communities, do not engage with offenders and do not ensure that responsibility is given and taken, you are less likely to succeed.

Q7 Nick de Bois: When you say "engage with the communities," what do you mean? Are you talking about where someone may be housed with the community, or do you mean with the agencies within a community?

Paul McDowell: I mean all of those things-a range of different measures. For instance, one of the key things for probation services-at the moment, it is delivered by the probation service-is to develop the right sort of relationship with the individual offender to enable the interventions to be applied. That multiplies up the likelihood of reducing reoffending. At the moment, much of that relationship is within a probation office. What I am saying is that we need to get out, to engage with communities and to make sure that individual offenders know exactly what is expected of them. We must engage with agencies and make sure that all of the individual interventions that need to be applied are applied with them.

Let me give you an analogy, if it is helpful-and this is one that we have applied in Nacro. Rather than standing in between society and the offender and saying, "It’s all right. I’ve got your back. I will protect you from all of this nastiness," instead we say, "We’ll stand next to you, assist you, help you and provide you with opportunities, but ultimately this is your responsibility. You have to take responsibility for what happens next. Here are the things that can happen, but it is down to you to do them." That cannot happen in a probation office.

Q8 Nick de Bois: I don’t want to go off at a tangent, but I have one quick follow-up. I mentioned looking at the organisation. In London, it is quite possible that an offender who has been handled by someone down in Croydon, shall we say, could end up being housed in Enfield, for example, in my constituency. If, organisationally, that is where you are going to go with something that is not directly within the control of the probation service-that is to say housing-it is almost impossible to build the relationship you are talking about, because the client manager will never be able to transcend London. We actually had a case of that, which led ultimately to another killing. Tell me more about your organisation. Have you perceived organisational constraints that will stop you seeing that objective achieved?

Paul McDowell: A related concern that feeds into the point you have just made is how resources are used. I have not worked in the probation service, so I am not able to comment on the detail, but it seems to me that arrangements at the moment are overly bureaucratic and that there is too much focus on the wrong things but not enough focus on those relationships, interactions and interventions that I described. It seems to me that if resources were used in a more efficient way, targeted and focused on the things that I am describing, we would probably be able to overcome some of those concerns. That is the first point I would make.

The second point I would make is that we need to get a bit cleverer and up to date with the way in which people communicate. We have to do what I have described-to get out there and develop that relationship-but how you stay in touch with people, interact with them and engage with them does not necessarily have to be face to face all the time. What I am saying is that I think one of the problems at the moment is that often those interactions exist in a very formal setting, inside a probation office, and that there are limitations on what you can achieve in those circumstances and in that way.

Nick de Bois: Thank you.

Q9 Gareth Johnson: Good morning, Mr McDowell. Can I ask you a question about the commissioning of probation services? There are various arguments that take place between those who feel that the probation service should commission services on a local level and others who feel that it should be done on a national level. This Committee has heard various arguments both in favour of and against those two concepts. On what side of the fence do you stand on that issue?

Paul McDowell: What is happening at the moment is fascinating, isn’t it? I will tell you where I sit. I don’t particularly have a problem with a national approach to commissioning, so long as you very, very clearly embed in those arrangements the sorts of local, specialist, engaged processes that you need to have included. I think this plays out most obviously in relation to the involvement of the voluntary sector, and, of course, that is something in which I have been experienced in the past four years.

I am not sure that you would expect me to say this, but I think there is something very important here. If you take a genuine black-box approach to the delivery of probation services, commission nationally-which is what is going on-and end up with 21 areas of delivery, those 21 areas, once they have been commissioned, are rolled out and are up and running, have a local geographical feel to them, of course. If you get the process right and the supplier in an area is engaged with a range of different local specialist charities, embedded locally, or other organisations, you get back that local feel.

However, I want to add one thing. I am not sure you would expect me to say this, given that I come from the voluntary sector, but we have to be really careful here. At the moment, there are a number of charities around that, understandably, are really interested in being engaged in this process and want to deliver services under these new arrangements, but we have to do something very brave here. We have to be clear about whether or not the interventions that those organisations deliver are effective. Is there evidence to say that they work? In my view, there is no point in being local and specialist if being local and specialist means paying for interventions that do not work.

Q10 Gareth Johnson: I want to pick up the answer you gave to Mr de Bois’s question, in which you said that the main point of the probation service was to reduce reoffending rates. What role do you think the inspectorate can contribute to that goal? Under your management, how would that work?

Paul McDowell: This gets to the heart of what my priorities would be as chief inspector. I am very clear here that HMIP ought to be focused on outcomes, results and impact. I would go as far as to say to this Committee that, having prepared for today and for this process by reading about the inspection that is currently being delivered in HMIP, I don’t think it focuses sufficiently on outcomes and impacts. I have a very clear view that that needs to happen. The primary purpose of the probation service is clearly to reduce reoffending-to impact on the level of crime. It seems to me that inspection ought primarily to be out there testing whether or not the effectiveness and value for money that are being provided by any supplier-any of the sectors that may or may not be involved in the future-are as they should be. On behalf of the public, are reoffending and crime being reduced, and, therefore, is the number of victims in the future being reduced?

Q11 Gareth Johnson: If, as you say, it is very results-driven, if crime is not reduced under your watch, would you say that that is your responsibility or would you look elsewhere?

Paul McDowell: I would be an independent inspector, leading an independent inspectorate. My duty, as I see it, would be to identify what was good and what was not so good in those interventions, outcomes and impacts, and to be brave and clearly identify where I thought there were weaknesses. That would be one part of what I would need to do as chief inspector. I think the other part is around best practice-identifying where best practice exists and making absolutely sure that we focus everybody’s attention on that best practice and encourage the spread of it-because that again, of course, improves the effectiveness, the outcomes and the impacts.

Q12 Mr Llwyd: Good morning, Mr McDowell. As you well appreciate, the landscape of delivery of probation services is in a period of considerable change at the moment. It is known as "Transforming Rehabilitation"; it is even referred to as the rehabilitation revolution. What do you think are the main implications of these changes for the inspectorate? How will you step up to the plate, as it were?

Paul McDowell: In a sense, it is part of some of the things that I have already said. Bringing them together to answer your question, the role of the inspectorate clearly needs to be rethought at this point in time to take account of the changes that are going to be made. The new landscape clearly involves a set of different approaches and a particularly challenging, potentially risky period when the transition is being made and the new arrangements need to settle in. There are some challenges in relation to the interactions between the new national probation service and the suppliers, from whichever sector they come.

If you add all of those challenges to my challenge-if none of those changes were happening, I take the view that the way in which inspection is approached at the moment in HMIP ought to be developed, to have better focus on outcomes and to be focused on impacts-what that tells you is that we need to think again here. We need to think through very carefully the methodology, the focus, the sorts of outcomes that we want to reach, the sorts of reports that we want to write and the impact that we as an inspectorate want to have on the effectiveness of interventions and reducing reoffending.

Q13 Mr Llwyd: Would you say that really rehabilitation is key to all of it?

Paul McDowell: It is fundamental, as far as I am concerned. When I use the word "intervention", which I probably do too often, that is exactly what I am talking about-absolutely what I am talking about.

Q14 Mr Llwyd: You will know that one of the complaints that the National Association of Probation Officers had-and still has, I believe-is that probation officers are not allowed sufficient face time, if you will excuse the term, with their clients; in other words, they are limited to fewer than 10 minutes per week, typically. You said earlier, quite rightly, to my friend Mr de Bois that it is important that a good working relationship is established, which is always the point of probation officers befriending and assisting. How do you see that happening in the current landscape?

Paul McDowell: First, I agree with most of what you have said. I want slightly to pick up on the word "befriending", because I think that has been one of the issues in the past. I think that the quality of that relationship in the future needs to be worked on in exactly the way you describe, but I would not see it as a befriending relationship-I would see it in the way I described earlier, using the analogy of standing next to the individual and providing opportunity, but challenge and responsibility as well. In my view, there is a slight difference in that respect.

Having said that, all of the changes that are going on at the moment, to one extent or another, will require the national probation service, on the one hand, and all of the suppliers in the 21 areas, on the other, to develop the sorts of interactions, relationships and interventions that they believe will deliver results. If I were given the opportunity to be chief inspector of probation, for me the focus of inspection would be on testing that.

It does not matter which sector you come from or which area of work you are working in-what I am interested in as an independent inspector is the degree to which you succeed in reducing reoffending and reducing crime. I have a view on the benefit of the quality of the relationships that are developed, but whether or not that is the track suppliers choose to go down is really a matter for them. I will share my view on that, which is based on my experience in the criminal justice system, and it would be slightly different from the model that has been applied in the past few decades, but those suppliers may want to do it in a slightly different way. What I would be interested in is whether they have reduced crime and reduced reoffending.

Q15 Mr Llwyd: What is your assessment of the capacity and the financial resources of the inspectorate over the medium term to enable it to do an effective job?

Paul McDowell: Of the inspectorate?

Mr Llwyd: Yes.

Paul McDowell: Without a doubt, that is a challenge in the current environment. I am not privy to the detail of the budget arrangements at this stage, but I know that I would want very quickly to understand how the inspectorate is working, how it is prioritising, and whether or not as the new landscape starts to develop and to be implemented we have the right resources, focused in the right way.

I talk about the way in which the probation services use their resources, but the challenge would be laid down equally at my feet, too, to say how well I was using inspectorate resources to deliver on the priorities. The problem is that there are never-ending resources that you would like in a perfect world, because you would want to test everything all the time. Quite honestly, that probably would not be helpful. It really is about focus, priority and getting value for money from what you have. If you really believe that you do not have enough, you have to be brave and to get out there and ask for what you need.

Q16 Mr Llwyd: Given the large number of potential providers out there, there will be considerable stress and strain on your budget, won’t there?

Paul McDowell: I guess that the large additional piece of work comes from the development of work with the under-12-month cohort, which will stretch the inspectorate in different directions. My answer is to say that I need to understand how that looks, what the priorities for us as an inspectorate will be and whether or not the resources available to us will meet that need. If not, I need to have the relevant discussions.

Q17 Mr Llwyd: How do you consider that the performance of the inspectorate needs to improve, and how would you achieve such improvements?

Paul McDowell: I am sorry to repeat myself, but I have kind of touched on that already. I have a very clear view that the focus of probation inspection needs to be very clearly on those outputs and impacts-what results are being achieved. I would want to think again about the way in which the inspectorate is configured and the way in which the technicality of the inspection is carried out, to ensure that there is the right focus on identifying those outcomes-identifying the success of the supplier’s interventions.

Q18 Andy McDonald: Good morning, Mr McDowell. With the changing landscape under the "Transforming Rehabilitation" agenda, you will inherit a situation in which you will have to inspect providers from the private and voluntary sectors as well as the public sector probation service. As I understand it, in the course of the coming year there will also be planned joint inspections with the chief inspector of prisons. Have you made an assessment of the appropriateness of these planned inspection regimes?

Paul McDowell: I have a very clear understanding of what the programme as it currently stands sets out. The joint inspections you refer to are incredibly important. I hope to get an opportunity during this meeting to talk about those joint inspections, because under "Transforming Rehabilitation" they are absolutely critical to the success of the overall process.

In direct answer to your question I would say that, at the moment, the programme does not look very different from last year’s. That is a consequence of the fact that at the time when it was written there was not a clear understanding of the time scale and the actual make-up of the new arrangements. As I understand it, it has been quite difficult to produce a programme that takes into account those new arrangements. That needs particular attention very quickly so that we adapt. As I understand it, if the timetable is hit, those new arrangements will impact on the inspectorate and everybody else from 1 October next year, which will be halfway through the planned programme for 2014-15. Things will therefore need to change to take account of that. Is it okay if I talk briefly about the-

Chair: In a moment you will get another question that may give you that opportunity.

Q19 Jeremy Corbyn: First, thank you for coming along today. Can I take you on to the question of joint inspections and linking up with other inspectorates? Is it really necessary to have separate inspections for prisons and probation services? Do you see any point in joint working or, indeed, merger?

Paul McDowell: I think it is really important-very important. I accept the premise of the point, which is that you have to be very careful about how you use your resources. You have to direct limited resources in the right way, but here is why I think the joint inspectorate arrangements with the prisons inspectorate are particularly important. Under the "Transforming Rehabilitation" arrangements, the through-the-gate activity-what happens inside prison custody with individual offenders and the way in which they are prepared for their release, and then the flow through the gate back into the community, and the way in which that work is extended into the community-is absolutely critical. As chief inspector, I would be responsible for inspecting the effectiveness and the outcomes achieved in the community with suppliers. I think it would be a significant shortfall if we were not at the same time jointly inspecting the arrangements for offender management inside prisons, to enable us to join up our findings in those prisons, where suppliers and the national probation service will be doing the front end of their work, with our findings in the community; if not, we would have only half of the story. By the way, I am not sure that those joint inspections end up in a joining up of that information and those outcomes.

Q20 Jeremy Corbyn: Given what you have said, do you believe that there is a shortfall at the moment between different inspection regimes for prisons and probation? Could you envisage a time when we would have one inspectorate for both services?

Paul McDowell: I think that would be very difficult. I do not think I am describing a shortfall, because I think that what I am talking about takes account of what is about to happen. What I am saying is that they are very different disciplines and the independence of those inspectorates is incredibly important. By the way, I am absolutely clear in my unequivocal support for the through-the-gate principle and have argued for it very publicly for a very long time. To be able to join up with our prison colleagues to test the quality of offender management work in prisons but still independently, with expertise in and understanding of the particular angle the probation services come from, to be able to flow that through out into the community and to join it up with our findings there is a very important process that is independent of prison inspection.

Q21 Jeremy Corbyn: How public should the criticism between inspectorates be? If you as a probation inspector find something badly wrong with what you believe to be the outcomes from the prison inspectors, do you think that sort of criticism should be made privately or publicly?

Paul McDowell: If I have understood your question properly-

Jeremy Corbyn: Maybe I did not put it very well. If as a probation inspector you find there is something seriously wrong and that, basically, the prisons inspectorate has not picked up on the needs of prisoners when coming out of prison, do you think that kind of criticism should be made privately or publicly?

Paul McDowell: If that were an outcome from a joint inspection, I would expect it to be said as part of that inspection, with its outcome. It would, therefore, by definition be public-absolutely. If not, what is the purpose of inspection?

Q22 Yasmin Qureshi: I want to explore again the relationship that you would have with the Ministry of Justice and also with NOMS. It is a two-part question. First, how will you ensure that your office maintains its independence and is able to stand up to political pressures that may or may not follow? As you know, the media will have a lot of interest in the job, as will the country nationally. So my first question is about how you will ensure that you are able to stand up and be independent and objective.

Paul McDowell: Absolutely. The independence element of all this is massively important. Essentially, the best inspectorates are those that maintain their independence absolutely. I am very clear about that. The reassurance that I would give you about my commitment to maintaining that independence is born of 24 years’ experience of criminal justice, four years of it spent in a different sector-the voluntary sector-where I have been able to have a different view. So I can bring those two different views, have a very clear understanding of what I think needs to be done and bring to that process a very clear understanding of the importance of independence.

If you do not maintain your independence, the whole process that we are describing is undermined. I would maintain proper distance and appropriate relationships. I would be brave in my inspection outcomes and would be focused on some of the smaller issues that I know are around but often come in from the side and threaten, to a small degree, some of the inspectorate’s independence. For instance, I am aware of an ongoing debate around shared websites. On its own, that sounds like a very small issue, but, if you then add three, four, five or six other issues, it starts to become a more significant threat to the independence of the inspectorate. All of those battles need to be fought along the way to ensure that you maintain the right level of independence to guarantee the quality and credibility of the inspectorate outcomes.

Q23 Yasmin Qureshi: My second question is, what would you say is the role of the chief inspector in seeking to influence Ministry of Justice and NOMS policies and practices in relation to probation services and, perhaps, the wider criminal justice system?

Paul McDowell: I am really sorry, but I did not catch the question.

Yasmin Qureshi: I am sorry-I will speak a bit more loudly. What would you say is the role of the chief inspector in seeking to influence Ministry of Justice and NOMS policies and practices in relation to probation and the wider criminal justice system?

Paul McDowell: So, as chief inspector, what impact would I have on policy?

Yasmin Qureshi: That is right. What do you think the chief inspector should be doing in relation to these organisations?

Paul McDowell: I see this quite straightforwardly, really. If as an inspectorate and a chief inspector you do all the things that I have already described, you are genuinely independent, genuinely brave in your findings and speak out when you see something that you believe is ineffective or is not happening as it should, the very strong hope would be-you would back this up in the discussions that you had and the meetings that you attended and would seek out the right people-that you would influence policy developments in a positive way. I would certainly want to do that and to see the findings of inspections, especially where they relate to ineffective practice, incorporated into policy development as we move forward, because otherwise what is the point? You have to complete the circle, but you have to do so in a way that maintains your independence and makes you not part of the system but independent from it, as a key contributor to it.

Q24 Graham Stringer: What level of confidence in and understanding of the probation service do you think the public have? What would be your approach to improving that understanding and confidence?

Paul McDowell: I should be very clear. I believe that the probation service has done a good job. The level of offending in the adult estate, for instance, has come down over the last 10 years. The problem is that it has not come down sufficiently well and that it would be difficult not to argue for some change. This is not a comment on the performance of the probation service; it is much more about wanting to push on a reducing reoffending agenda and to get something done about that. I understand entirely that people are concerned about the way that people feel or perceive that confidence is or is not felt in the probation service as a consequence of these processes, but I just do not see it in that way. I see it as the next step along the way. In order to maintain my independence as chief inspector, I would want to distance myself from those processes and decisions and to focus on identifying best practice, effective practice, what is good about the current arrangements in the probation service and what develops in the national probation service and with the different suppliers around the country.

Q25 Graham Stringer: It sounds very much as though you would allow the outcomes themselves to form your relationship with the public and to determine their level of understanding and confidence in the probation service. Is that a fair reflection of what you have just said? I asked what you would do to improve that confidence and level of understanding, but I did not really hear you answer that point.

Paul McDowell: Maybe it was a clumsy answer. However, despite my clumsiness, I think you have picked up the thrust of what I am saying, which is that it seems to me that the most obvious way to improve confidence in the current probation service and the future national probation service-in probation services-is to improve the quality of the outcomes that you achieve. If you are able very clearly to display to the public that they are getting good value for money and, critically, that crime is reducing, and that in the future victims will be created in smaller numbers-by the way, you take account of the fact that achieving zero crime is not realistic and that you have to manage perceptions and expectations in that sense-you can build confidence in the public by focusing on the outcomes that are achieved. I actually do not believe that to date the achievements of the probation service have been well enough understood by the public. It is just that I am not satisfied that it has achieved enough, because I am ambitious as a criminal justice professional to see us reduce crime very much further than we already have.

Q26 Graham Stringer: Can you tell the Committee briefly what your experience of dealing with the media has been in your previous roles? What would be your approach to dealing with the media? Would it be different as chief inspector?

Paul McDowell: I have had extensive experience in the media, first as a prison governor appearing on the "Today" programme on the radio and doing various different things, which was always very interesting. Nacro was a big step up as far as that is concerned because, of course, Nacro is not just an organisation that delivers services and interventions but also a charity that is focused on influencing policy and developing understanding of effective intervention. So I have had extensive media experience talking through those issues. Leading a Nacro campaign successfully to reform the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act is an example of the sorts of things I have been involved in.

The second part of your question was about how I would develop that as a chief inspector of probation. Again, it crosses over with some of the independence issues. I think you have to be very careful that you use your ability to be in the media spotlight to say things that really impact, to make sure that you are focused on the outcomes that you are identifying and evidencing through inspection and really to hone in on those messages that start to develop the public’s perception. Whether that is a positive or a negative perception will depend on the evidence that we find-the outcomes that are reached-but it would be about using that spotlight to start really to develop the understanding and perception of the quality of what is being delivered in criminal justice.

Q27 Chair: Is there anything that you feel we have missed or that you would like to add to what you have said to us so far?

Paul McDowell: Er-

Chair: Is there anything that you think we have missed or that you want to add to what you have said?

Paul McDowell: Thank you for repeating the question to buy me some more time. I would probably just add that I bring to this role 24 years of passionate commitment to reducing reoffending, working in two different sectors. Actually, if you do not mind, I would like to add one thing, because what I have developed over that time is a very good understanding of what I believe works in reducing reoffending. It is a Nacro invention-it has been around in Nacro for a long time-but I truly believe that it can work. It is the joined-up delivery of interventions to individuals. By the way, that is one of the things I would focus on as a chief inspector-identifying where the variety of interventions that are necessary for an individual offender in order to multiply up the likelihood of reducing their reoffending are delivered at the appropriate time and in the appropriate place. That is a key way of solving the problem.

Q28 Jeremy Corbyn: On that last point, when you talk about a variety of interventions, what do you mean? Do you mean housing, mental health support and education? What sort of things are you talking about?

Paul McDowell: Yes. Of course, the initial risk assessment that takes place will identify all of those things, and that becomes critical in the process. What I am talking about exactly are the interventions that you need if you do not have a home to live in, you never completed your education, you have never had a job, your family relationships have broken down, you have a substance misuse problem or you have a mental health problem; I could keep going. Those are exactly the interventions I am talking about.

My experience both in the Prison Service and in the voluntary sector is that all too often we are not clever with our commissioning arrangements. What happens is that we will commission one thing over here, which will be applied to an individual or individuals, and then commission something else over here; it is not necessarily joined up. The experience of Nacro has been that we may be commissioned to deliver housing in Lincolnshire, but we are not commissioned to deliver education in Lincolnshire. The opposite might be true in Essex. As a consequence of that, we are required to find the right partners in those areas to ensure that a very complicated process takes place of ensuring that each individual gets all of the interventions at the right time and in the appropriate way.

Q29 Jeremy Corbyn: I have a follow-up to that. If you came up with a report that highlighted the discrepancy between Lincolnshire and Essex, for example, on these things and pointed out the necessity of change, would you in your role be prepared to push to make sure that that actually happened, rather than just producing a report that got the issue off your desk and on to the Secretary of State’s desk or somewhere else? Do you see your role as inspector as being to push the thing on a bit further?

Paul McDowell: I absolutely see that as key and fundamental; it is central to the role. The corollary of that is that you inspect an area where all of those things are happening and can see the impact on reducing reoffending, so you are able to say, "This is really good. This works. Look at the outcomes and impacts that are being achieved here." So-going back to your point-if it is not happening, you have to say that. You have to say, "Look, these interventions are being delivered very well, but they are not being joined up." That is why I said earlier that this is about understanding how the relationship works with the individual offender. In my view, inspection ought to be testing out how effectively the interventions are being applied to that individual, not stuck in an office reviewing paperwork. It must get out there and test the quality of relationships and interventions, and ensure that they are joined up and effective.

Chair: Thank you very much. We will reach our conclusion, which we will communicate to the Minister fairly quickly. You and the Minister will see in advance any formal report that we produce, but we hope that the whole process will be over in just a matter of days. Thank you very much for coming this morning. The Committee will now go into private session.

Prepared 10th October 2013