Transforming rehabilitation Contents

2Barriers to achieving the “rehabilitation revolution”

Reduced business for Community Rehabilitation Companies

8.The case volumes of Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) are much lower, by between 6% and 36%, than the Ministry of Justice (the Ministry) had predicted when letting the contracts. The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) attributed this, in part, to the changing nature of the offender caseload and the mix of cases that have come to be managed by both the National Probation Service (NPS) and by the CRCs.25 They also noted more pronounced change in rural than urban areas.26 Despite lower than expected case volumes leading to reduced income, CRCs have begun to introduce some innovative practices, such as equipping staff with new technology, new “one-stop” service centres and working with cohorts of individuals in very different ways.27 The extent of this innovation has, however, been slowed by unresolved negotiations between the CRCs and the Ministry to address the impact of the volume reductions on CRCs’ income. These negotiations were ongoing at the time of the NAO report in April 2016 and were still not resolved at the time of our evidence session in July 2016.28

9.The changing offender caseload has also added significant pressure to the NPS staff who are having to manage higher than expected numbers of more violent and sexual offenders.29 When combined with flawed ICT systems and pressure on NPS managers to deliver support services, this puts staff under increased pressure and negatively impacts morale.30 NOMS commended probation staff and those working in the NPS and CRCs for keeping services running over a period of sustained change.31

Incentives to innovate

10.The Ministry intended that the probation reforms would incentivise CRCs to deliver innovative approaches to delivering offender supervision and support services.32 It was deliberately unprescriptive about how CRCs would deliver services to different groups of offenders as it wanted to give CRCs freedom to develop their own approaches to how to help and support someone to change.33 This stance allows space for innovation but can pose risks to maintaining services, in particular for specific minority groups, such as women offenders.

11.Voluntary organisations raised the quality of services delivered to female offenders as a particular concern, as women have different needs in respect of the services that will support them to stop reoffending. There is a statutory responsibility on CRCs to provide services for women but services are inconsistent across England and Wales as the statutory responsibility is not supported by more detailed specification.34 We received evidence highlighting concerns about the decline in CRC funding for women’s services, as well as perverse incentives to focus on contract performance rather than service quality.35 The Ministry emphasised that the closure of HMP Holloway, announced in November 2015, provides an opportunity to rethink the shape and size of the female prison estate. It expects that the closure will result in a different way of accommodating women prisoners and fewer women in prison.36 The Committee will follow closely developments in the women’s prison estate and the impact this has on probation services.

12.The Ministry told us that its payment-by-results pilots in Doncaster and Peterborough prisons had established that organisations were not prepared to be paid solely based on a payment-by-results basis for reducing reoffending.37 Under the Transforming Rehabilitation Programme, CRCs are primarily paid for delivering specified services with only a small element, around 10%, of payments expected to be paid on the basis of reduced reoffending.38 The pilots also helped the Ministry to refine the payment-by-results mechanism to take into account the frequency of re-offending.39 We have, however, received persuasive testimony on risks posed by the payment mechanism and by arrangements in CRCs’ supply chains.40 For example, the payment mechanism can reduce the incentive to adopt innovative practices. Established approaches to reducing reoffending, such as group-based accredited programmes, and more innovative approaches, such as the Care Farm Model in Warwickshire and West Mercia, are both important methods.41 Where a court orders an accredited programme this will attract specific funding. But if the CRC has its own innovative interventions and the court consents to this through a general Rehabilitation Activity Requirement, these must be funded from the CRC’s general resources.42 Submissions to us cited a “race to the bottom” on service quality, with specialised, individual-focused services being decommissioned in favour of generic group activities.43 This, combined with NPS court staff lacking understanding on the range of services now available, means that some innovative approaches are not being used or funded.

13.The NPS recognises that it has more to do to provide the appropriate advice to sentencers and the judiciary on exactly what rehabilitation services are now available from CRCs,44 whose staff are not normally present in court proceedings. The NPS also cited examples where it is trying to deliver innovation, as part of its Efficiency, Effectiveness and Excellence (E3) programme, in areas such as the accreditation of its approved premises and its training of probation officers.45

Third sector involvement

14.The reforms had a specific objective to open up probation to a wide range of rehabilitation providers, including mutuals and the third sector, to provide further innovation in supervising offender. To understand the market’s appetite to sign up to contracts where payment is based on reducing reoffending, in May 2012, the Ministry tendered contracts for a pilot offender rehabilitation programme at Leeds prison. The Ministry closed the competition after bidders decided not to compete. It claimed to have learned from this pilot that the voluntary sector, who are often smaller organisations, had less capacity than private sector bidders to accept financial and commercial risk.46 It is not evident to us that this learning was applied to the CRC procurement with all but one of the 21 CRCs now controlled by private sector owners. Voluntary organisations felt that the Ministry had sought to transfer more risk than charities, or their trustees, could accept.47

15.The Ministry pointed to a wider supply chain supporting CRC owners, including organisations from the community health, skills and education and employment support sectors.48 However, evidence submissions to us raised concerns about how voluntary sector organisations are being treated by the CRCs and the NPS. Research into the sector has found that the pace of change has been slow, reducing investment by CRCs in voluntary suppliers’ work, that the reforms have not succeeded in creating a diverse supply chain, and that poor quality communication with the voluntary sector is damaging relations and impeding service improvement.49 The research also highlighted that while some services remain unchanged, very few voluntary sector organisations are seeing an improvement in probation services. In many cases, these organisations are reporting negative experiences and outcomes for services users. We also received further evidence that organisations involved were not clear about the commitments in the contracts including performance indicators, financial penalties and incentives.

Enabling joint working

16.Successful probation services depend on effective joint-working across various partners, supported by well-functioning ICT systems. Probation ICT systems have long been unfit for purpose, which hinders collaboration and frustrates staff who already work under pressure. We were told that the nDelius case management system used by NOMS had to be stripped back so it could be operated by CRCs and NPS regions nationwide as a single system. As a result, this reduced the useability of nDelius and NPS staff regularly raise ICT issues with senior leaders in NOMS.50 Improving nDelius is a priority for NOMS and is particularly important for the NPS who will continue to use the system for the foreseeable future.51

17.Most CRCs are installing their own case management systems and ICT infrastructure to increase efficiency and productivity. For this to happen, CRCs needed the Ministry to provide a “strategic partner gateway” to link NOMS and CRC systems.52 The Ministry initially planned to deliver this gateway in the summer of 2015 but this was delayed by other priorities and subsequently by increased scope.53 Though the gateway is now in place, the delay has impacted some CRCs’ ability to transform their ICT systems at the pace they had planned. As a result, the Ministry has had to pay a total of £23.1 million to 17 CRCs.54

18.The probation reforms broke long-established working relationships, which many staff have found difficult to adjust to. The Ministry recognises the importance of getting the NPS and CRCs working together more effectively. It has put in place various governance structures, including ‘service integration groups’ to bring CRCs, NPS and NOMS together to work through operational challenges.55 The Ministry has also sought to identify and share good joint working practices, such as those existing in Wales, that it feels can be learned from and adapted to the different circumstances across England.56

19.The NPS told us it is currently trying to deliver a more consistent service to offenders across its seven regions within England and Wales. It wants to ensure best practice in offender supervision is shared across England and Wales, rather than have a standardised ‘one size fits all’ approach.57 However, the NPS is struggling with a high workload and difficulties accessing services outside its direct control, such as housing, education and work.58 HM Inspectorate of Probation advised us that staff morale, training, workloads and line management are all variable and will need to improve if Transforming Rehabilitation is to be fully effective.59 NPS managers are also finding it extremely challenging to take on the additional responsibility of providing support services to their staff. The NPS told us that it was right for managers to take responsibility for their staff, but it also recognised that it had not appreciated the significance of, and the investment required in, providing support through a shared service centre.60

Wider pressures on the Ministry

20.The Ministry now has to see through the intended improvements in probation services alongside multiple changes in areas such as the prisons and courts systems.61 The Ministry accepted that the Transforming Rehabilitation procurement process had probably diverted attention away from other areas. It wants to make sure that in future “business as usual” activities or second order change programmes receive the same amount of attention. It is conscious of current pressures in the prisons estate: the increase in violence and self-harm, new psychoactive substances and the attendant security risks.62 However, the Ministry is also facing significant resource pressures, having to deliver savings to its administrative budget of 50% by 2019–20 and overall resource savings of 15% by 2019–20.63 The Ministry has plans to make these savings, which include reviewing the way it carries out contract management and replacing specialist contractors with more affordable civil servants.64

21.The Ministry has committed to provide prison governors with greater autonomy to decide the services delivered in their prisons, and it is unclear what impact this would have on CRCs already providing “Through the Gate” services. The extent to which these plans will continue will be determined by new Ministers following the reshuffle in July 2016.65

28 Q 17; C&AG’s Report para 4.7

30 C&AG’s Report, paras 3.5 and 3.18

32 Qq 2–5; C&AG’s Report, appendix 3

34 Q 65; Womens’ Breakout (TRR0003)

35 Howard League for Penal Reform (TRR007); Prison Reform Trust (TRR0005)

38 C&AG’s Report, para 1.14

40 The Prison Reform Trust (TRR0005)

41 Q 20; C&AG’s Report, para 1.20

43 Howard League for Penal Reform (TRR0007)

45 Q 23; C&AG’s Report, para 4.13

46 Qq 9–12; C&AG’s Report, paras, 1.6, 1.15

47 C&AG’s Report, paras 1.6-1.7 and figure 1.6

49 Clinks, The National Council for Voluntary Organisations, and the Third Sector Research Centre (TRR0002); Clinks, NCVO and TSRC, Change & Challenge: the voluntary sector’s role in Transforming Rehabilitation, May 2016.

50 Q 4; Qq 48–49; Q 53; C&AG’s Report, paras 3.10–3.11

51 C&AG’s Report, para 3.12

53 C&AG’s Report, para 3.13

54 Q 50; Ministry of Justice, Annual Report and Accounts, 2015–16, p.70

56 Q 37; C&AG’s Report, para 3.4

59 Q 36; HM Inspectorate of Probation (TRR0004); C&AG’s Report, para 3.3

60 Q 40; C&AG’s Report, para 15

63 “Ministry of Justice’s settlement at the Spending Review”, Ministry of Justice and HM Treasury press release, 25 November 2015

© Parliamentary copyright 2015

16 September 2016