Transforming Rehabilitation Contents

Conclusions and recommendations

Transforming Rehabilitation reforms

1.It was a mistake to introduce the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms without completing thorough piloting. (Paragraph 18)

Structural issues

2.We welcome the Ministry’s move away from black box contracts with Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). (Paragraph 25)

3.The Government has had to fundamentally change assumptions in the contracts with CRCs: the fixed-cost assumption in the contracts has been reversed in the changes announced in July 2017. Having to make such a fundamental change to ensure that providers were being paid to meet the basic costs of providing probation services is concerning. It raises serious questions about the Ministry of Justice’s apparent reluctance to challenge overoptimistic bids and its ability to let contracts based on appropriate assumptions. We agree with our colleagues on the Committee of Public Accounts that the Ministry “significantly overestimated the ability of CRCs to reduce their costs to match any fall in income when it agreed the contracts”. (Paragraph 36)

4.Ambiguity remains about the nature of the changes made to the contracts with CRCs and what the Ministry got from the CRCs in return for the increased funding. We are concerned that it has been difficult fully to scrutinise public spending decisions as a result. Commercial confidentiality should not be so readily used as a barrier to openness and transparency. We recommend that any significant changes made by the Ministry of Justice to CRC contracts, including those currently underway, should be publicly disclosed. This disclosure should include information on any significant changes to the payment model and funding for CRCs, as well as information on what the Ministry expects to receive in return for the changes. (Paragraph 42)

5.We welcome the Minister of State’s confirmation that terminating the contracts with CRCs before 2022 is “100% an option”, if they do not deliver to the expected standards. We also note that the Ministry of Justice is currently in a further round of renegotiations with the CRCs on the contracts. Constant renegotiations of contracts only provides interim solutions to the issues facing the sector. The Ministry of Justice should move away from a “sticking-plaster” approach of rolling contract negotiations following the current round of renegotiations. If contracts are to be terminated the Ministry of Justice needs to ensure that transition plans are in place which make sure that: offenders receive the support they require to be rehabilitated and their risk of reoffending does not increase. The Ministry should undertake a public consultation on any further changes to ensure a wide range of views on contractual arrangements. This public consultation should consider the number of CRCs and the bodies eligible to bid for CRC contracts. (Paragraph 46)

6.We are concerned that most CRCs are still forecast to make a loss over the lifetime of the contracts, despite additional funding from the Government. Provider failure could be a serious problem if the financial positions of any CRC parent company alters. The Ministry of Justice should continue to closely monitor the financial position of all CRCs to ensure that no CRC is suddenly unable to deliver probation services. It should ensure its contingency plans reflect the Principles set by the National Audit Office in its paper on “Managing Provider Failure”. (Paragraph 49)

7.We are surprised that it costs HMPPS and HMPPS Wales more staff and money to manage the Ministry’s contracts with the 21 CRCs, than HMI Prisons has to inspect more than a hundred prisons, as well as young offender institutions, secure training centres, immigration removal centres, short-term holding facilities, police custody, military detention and court custody. (Paragraph 51)

8.We welcome the Minister’s determination and drive to increase CRC performance, even if that means there is an increased inspection and audit burden. It is important that any oversight balances being rigorous and supportive with duplicating oversight and giving conflicting advice to providers. The Ministry should conduct a review after HMI Probation’s new inspection regime has been in place for a year to assess: the number of providers who are rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’; the additional burden being placed on providers because of the increased frequency of inspection; and whether there were any elements of the inspection and audit regimes which could be consolidated. (Paragraph 55)

9.The current contracts have too great a focus on outputs and inputs compared to outcomes. A greater emphasis on outcomes would provide greater assurance to Ministers and the public that public money is being well spent and probation is having a positive impact on the life of individuals and society. The Ministry of Justice should review contract performance measures so that they focus on outcomes, especially on housing, employment and drug rehabilitation, rather than inputs or outputs. This review should be completed by 1 February 2019 (four years after probation services were fully divided between the NPS and CRCs). (Paragraph 62)

10.Concern was raised with us that the 2011 baseline for reoffending was an unfair measurement in which to compare CRC performance against in terms of reducing reoffending. We have identified that CRCs might be being penalised for increases in the frequency rate of reoffending that took place prior to the TR reforms and them taking over running probation services, however, this does not appear to be the case for the binary rate of reoffending. In response to this Report the Ministry should set out whether the 2011 baseline for reoffending is the correct measure against which CRC performance should be assessed. If the Ministry believes that the 2011 baseline remains the correct measure it should set out its reasons why. (Paragraph 66)

11.CRC performance in reducing reoffending, particularly the frequency rates, has been disappointing. The payment by results mechanism in the contracts with CRCs is not working as a sufficient incentive to drive improvement. However, we are not convinced that CRCs should carry full responsibility for poor performance in reducing reoffending as many of the factors that impact on reoffending are outside the control of probation services. In response to this Report the Ministry of Justice should review the payment by results mechanism and set out where it should be amended. (Paragraph 70)

12.By January 2019, when the next annual cohort data is released on final binary and frequency reoffending performance, the Ministry should ensure that CRCs receive full data relating to which of their offenders reoffended. (Paragraph 71)

13.We remain unclear as to how the Ministry is tackling underperformance of CRCs on a day-to-day basis if it is not applying service credits. It is concerning that only 27% of service credits raised by the Ministry between July to September 2015 and April to June 2017 were applied. In response to this Report the Government should set out what other steps it is taking to address underperformance of CRCs, including in cases where service credits are not applied. (Paragraph 74)

14.We are unconvinced that splitting offenders by risk was the right way to split the probation system. Splitting the system in such a way does not recognise that the risk of harm an individual poses can change over time. Should the Government decide that probation services should continue to be delivered as per the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, we recommend that the Government should ask HM Inspectorate of Probation to conduct a review of how best offenders should be distributed between the NPS and CRCs, and to investigate the impact of changing offender risk and how the NPS and CRCs manage this matter. (Paragraph 76)

15.The splitting of probation services between the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies has complicated the delivery of probation services and created a “two-tier” system. Although we heard about joint working going on at a local and national level, problems in the relationship remain. (Paragraph 79)

16.We note that some improvements appear to have been made regarding the Rate Card in recent months and in some areas there has been an increase in the use of Rate Card services. Nonetheless, we are concerned that both the NPS and CRCs have found, and continue to find, the process overly cumbersome. The Ministry of Justice should assess whether it remains appropriate to encourage the NPS to use CRC Rate Card services, or whether the NPS should be liberalised to develop its own supply chain as a matter of course. (Paragraph 87)

17.The Transforming Rehabilitation changes have weakened local partnership working and local accountability, meaning there is less joined-up working and collaboration at a local level. We recommend that in response to this Report the Ministry of Justice should set out its vision for future local accountability of probation and the role that Police and Crime Commissioners might play. (Paragraph 90)

Providers and working relationships

18.In our view the Government has failed to open up the probation market, a key aim of the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. We are not convinced by the Minister’s comments that the voluntary sector is more involved in probation than before the TR reforms. The decreased involvement of the voluntary sector, especially that of smaller local organisations, is deeply regrettable and reduces the quality and array of services available to individuals on probation. This has resulted in fewer local and specialist services being offered. We are concerned that currently the details of supply chains of probation providers are not publicly available and therefore it is not possible to fully assess the scale of the voluntary sector’s involvement. We recommend that from 1 February 2019 the Ministry of Justice should publish information on probation supply chains for each CRC area and NPS region on a quarterly basis. This should include information on all sub-contractors (not just those in the voluntary sector) and the monetary value of the sub-contracts. (Paragraph 100)

19.The evidence is mixed on what effect the introduction of targets for voluntary sector involvement might have on their participation in CRC supply chains. We recommend that the Ministry of Justice should consider, in response to this Report, what benefits might be gained from reintroducing targets for each Community Rehabilitation Company on the proportion of its budget which should be spent on voluntary sector provision, and whether involving some of the smaller, more specialised voluntary sector organisations could be incentivised. (Paragraph 102)

20.The Industry Standards Partnering Agreements (ISPA) are cumbersome for both probation providers and the voluntary sector, especially smaller organisations, and others who might reasonably form part of the probation supply chain. By 1 February 2019, the Ministry of Justice should review the ISPA, with a view to reducing its length and complexity. The Ministry should write to the Committee after that review to set out the changes that it has made. (Paragraph 106)

21.We appreciate that Section 4 of the Offender Management Act 2007 was not amended following the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms as it was felt to be inappropriate for a private company to be able to make commercial gains as a result of advice given to a court. We do not propose that changes should be made to Section 4 of the Offender Management Act 2007. Nonetheless, we are concerned that barriers remain in some areas and adequate information on services delivered by CRCs is not available to sentencers and NPS staff. Arrangements need to be in place consistently across England and Wales which ensure that sentencers are well informed about services offered by CRCs to compensate for CRCs’ lack of direct access to the courts. (Paragraph 113)

22.We recommend that the National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies should be required to provide the Ministry of Justice with workforce data on a quarterly basis. This should include information on the recruitment and retention rates for Probation Officers and other case managers by grade, and total workforce numbers by NPS area and CRC. This data should be published by the Ministry as part of its quarterly statistics. (Paragraph 116)

23.Probation Officers and other case managers provide an important public duty and it is important that morale within the sector is maintained. We recommend that from 2019 all providers, both CRCs and the NPS, should be required to use the same, or a similar, staff survey each year. Results of those staff surveys should be published for the seven NPS areas and the 21 CRCs. (Paragraph 119)

24.We are concerned at the caseloads and workloads of probation staff. We are also concerned that there have been some claims that probation staff are handling cases for which they do not have the right training and/or experience. We recommend that the Ministry of Justice should publish a probation workforce strategy, which covers both staff working in the NPS and CRCs, in the next 12 months. As a minimum, the strategy should set out the Ministry’s expectations with regard to professional standards, training, and maximum caseloads/workloads for probation staff. This strategy should be developed in consultation with the trade unions and HM Inspectorate of Probation. (Paragraph 126)

25.We are concerned that problems remain regarding data sharing across the criminal justice system. It is disappointing that CRCs have spent large sums of money developing IT systems to meet the Ministry’s contractual requirements, only for the MoJ to move the goalposts. By 1 February 2019, the Ministry of Justice should ensure that security constraints and IT barriers which prevent data from being shared between organisations involved in managing an offender from the point of arrest, in prison and through to support in the community are proportionate. This should include identifying how the number of IT systems could be rationalised and/or linked so that the same data is not repeatedly inputted into different systems. (Paragraph 131)

Support for offenders on probation

26.It is extremely worrying that sentencer confidence in community alternatives to short custodial sentences has waned to such an extent that sentencers appear to be reluctant in some cases to order community sentences rather than short periods in custody, particularly as the latter have the worse outcomes in terms of reoffending. We welcome the Secretary of State’s announcement that short custodial sentences (12 months or less) should be a “last resort”. We recommend that the UK Government should introduce a presumption against short custodial sentences. The Government should carry out an assessment of the potential impacts that such a policy might have, including on the prison population, both the male and female estate, and the allocation of cases to different courts. (Paragraph 140)

27.We welcome the intention of the then Government’s policy to improve consistency of post-sentence supervision provided to offenders, especially those receiving short custodial sentences. However, the current one-size fits all approach lacks the flexibility to meet the varying needs of offenders. If short custodial sentences continue to be used, within 12 months the Government should consider repealing Section 2 of the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014. Before repealing the Section 2 provisions the Ministry should assess what policy or legislative measures should replace those provisions. (Paragraph 145)

28.A Through the Gate service which merely signposts offenders to other organisations is wholly inadequate. Following the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, there is a risk that offenders now receive a £46 discharge grant and a leaflet rather than just £46. We recommend that the Ministry of Justice should review the purpose of Through the Gate and the support that it provides offenders. As part of this review the Ministry should consider introducing a prisoner discharge pack, based on need, and minimum expectations on resettlement services offered and how offenders’ knowledge of accessing Government services through digital portals can be improved. Real consideration should be given to whether it is appropriate to release prisoners with few family ties, from custody on a Friday, when access to Government services can be difficult. (Paragraph 152)

29.The current system of having a 12-week point at which pre-release resettlement activity commences is too inflexible and does not reflect the varying, and often complex, needs of offenders. We recommend that offenders should begin receiving pre-release resettlement activity no later than 12 weeks prior to release. When an offender requires pre-release support before the 12-week pre-release point that should be provided and CRCs should be appropriately remunerated. (Paragraph 156)

30.We agree with HM Chief Inspector of Probation that telephone reporting should not be used as the only means by which an offender is supervised. We consider that kiosk meetings are never likely to be appropriate and that telephone supervision should only be used in exceptional circumstances and not in isolation. Delivery of probation services must be supported by credible evidence. The Ministry of Justice should set out its minimum expectations to providers on the balance between remote and face-to-face supervision, and on the location of meetings between an offender and their Probation Officer. (Paragraph 161)

31.We are concerned that only one in two individuals are supervised by the same officer throughout their case. Providers must do more to ensure that an individual’s Probation Officer or case manager is the same throughout their time on probation so that a trusting relationship can be developed between the individual and their Probation Officer or case manager. The Ministry of Justice should introduce national guidance on best practice relating to changes to an individual’s Probation Officer or case manager. (Paragraph 164)

32.We do not think that it is proportionate for offenders to be credited with only one hour’s worth of unpaid work when they have been stood down at the last minute and for factors which are outside their control. When the Ministry of Justice responds to our Report it should have undertaken a review of output 3 of service element 6 of its guidance on unpaid work orders. It should set out in response to this Report any changes it will implement. (Paragraph 169)

33.We agree with HM Chief Inspector of Probation that unpaid work orders should follow probation best practice. We recommend that, where possible, unpaid work should contribute to the local community and be linked to education and training. (Paragraph 172)

34.There are strong links between homelessness and reoffending. It is unacceptable that any local council has been able to deem an individual who has served a custodial sentence as making themselves intentionally homeless. This practice needs to be stopped given the links between homelessness and reoffending. We welcome the Minister’s commitment to challenge local councils who take such an approach. We recommend that the Government should amend the Homelessness Code of Guidance for Local Authorities, to make it explicit that an individual who is homeless because of having served a custodial sentence should be deemed vulnerable for the purposes of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017. We further recommend that the UK Government should work with the Welsh Government to ensure that their homelessness legislation takes due account of the risks of reoffending. (Paragraph 182)

35.We recommend that the Ministry of Justice should work with the Department for Work and Pensions to enable offenders serving custodial sentences to apply for Universal Credit (UC) prior to their release from custody so that they receive UC on the day of release. As an interim measure, and until offenders can receive UC upon release, the Government should set up a transitional credit fund for those offenders who have insufficient funds to provide for the basics, such as travel, a roof over their heads and food, in recognition that £46 is wholly inadequate to cover these. (Paragraph 187)

36.We are pleased that the Minister confirmed to us that schemes run in prisons to assist offenders in opening a bank account. The Government should consider how offenders who are being released to an unknown or non-fixed address can be supported in having access to a bank account, so that an absence of such an account does not prohibit the offender from getting a job, claiming benefits or securing a place to live. (Paragraph 190)

The long-term delivery of probation services

37.The Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) reforms are not meeting the then Government’s aims. We are unconvinced that as things stand the TR model can ever deliver an effective or viable probation service. We recommend that the Ministry of Justice should initiate a review into the long-term future and sustainability of delivering probation services under the models introduced by the TR reforms, including how performance under the TR system might compare to an alternative system for delivering probation. The Government should publish its review, in full, by 1 February 2019. Given the issues which have arisen due to the speedy implementation of the TR reforms and lack of piloting, any new model must be thoroughly planned and tested. (Paragraph 200)

Published: 22 June 2018