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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 519-xi
House of COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE the
the role of the probation service
wednesday 8 June 2011
professor ken pease obe, professor hazel kemshall and professor carol hedderman
mr david chantler, assistant chief constable john long and mr john quick
Evidence heard in Public Questions 647 - 713
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Taken before the Justice Committee
on Wednesday 8 June 2011
Sir Alan Beith (Chair)
Mr Robert Buckland
Mr Elfyn Llwyd
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Professor Ken Pease OBE, Manchester Business School, Professor Hazel Kemshall, De Montfort University, and Professor Carol Hedderman, University of Leicester, gave evidence.
Chair: Good morning, Professor Kemshall, Professor Hedderman and Professor Pease, and welcome. We are grateful to you for coming in and giving us your experience, knowledge and fruits of academic research in the area we are working on, the work of the Probation Service. I will ask Claire Perry to open the questions.
Q647 Claire Perry: It is very nice to talk to some people who perhaps have stepped back a little bit from the hurlyburly and the overloaded case management system. We are very grateful to you for taking the time to come and talk to us. What I would like to know, to start with, is what, in your view, does the research show the Probation Service is doing well and what are the main problems and shortcomings that you see-if we can start at a sort of over50,000 foot level initially?
Professor Kemshall: Good morning. I have a few bullet points about what I think the research shows probation does well. The first is the community supervision of sex offenders, particularly through specialist teams and units, group programmes for sexual offenders and, to a limited extent, also violent offenders. The evidence also shows that highrisk public protection teams, often comprising both police and probation colocated together, have been beneficial. The multiagency public protection panels for multidisciplinary risk assessment and management have also been helpful. When applied consistently, OASys has also proved helpful in identifying risk, particularly risk of reconviction, but more recently the risk of harm. Targeted work on what are called the criminogenic need factors-although I prefer risk factors-based on the effective practice research agenda, has also had a good track record. Do you want me to talk about the limitations?
Claire Perry: Yes, please.
Professor Kemshall: The first one would be lack of consistency across probation trusts. When you look at the performance measures, that would also be borne out, particularly in applying that effective practice agenda. I would also personally say that work, both one to one and in terms of group programmes, with violent offenders has lagged behind work with sexual offenders. That has often been because the policy and media focus has been on sexual offenders, particularly over the last 10 years, rather than necessarily violent offenders.
Claire Perry: I nteresting.
Professor Kemshall: There have occasionally been problems with attrition from treatment or programme interventions, particularly where the waiting time for the offender to join those programmes has been too long.
The third point would have to be about there still being some inconsistency in the application of OASys, both in risk assessment and in case management.
Q648 Claire Perry: Thank you. Would you like to comment, Professor Pease?
Professor Pease: Only as a limitation. If one believes the Ministry of Justice statistics, it is the case that the Probation Service disposals do not reduce reconviction rates relative to statistical expectation.
Chair: Could you speak up a little and repeat what you just said because the door was shutting?
Professor Pease: I am sorry. I have one comment because my expertise is more on the statistics of the thing than it is on the daytoday operation, as Hazel has mentioned. If one believes Ministry of Justice statistics on rates of reconviction, it appears that one can predict probability of reconviction on the day of sentence as well as one can at the end of sentence.
Q649 Claire Perry: Effectively, there is no impact of the probation intervention?
Professor Pease: Taken across the board, that is so, I think.
Q650 Claire Perry: Interesting. Professor Hedderman, do you have something to add?
Professor Hedderman: I would disagree with that in that, in this field, all you can ever do is compare. You are never in the position of saying probation versus nothing. You are always in the field of saying probation versus either a short prison sentence or a fine. The Ministry of Justice have recently published a report which looked at what happens when you put likeforlike cases on a short prison sentence or on probation-allowing for the fact that, usually, you get different people getting different sentences. That seems to show that the impact on reconviction of probation and suspended sentence supervision is greater than a short prison sentence.
Q651 Claire Perry: We have just come from an interesting breakfast meeting about short sentencing, but that is a whole other topic. Thank you.
I wanted to probe on one thing you said, Professor Kemshall, about lack of consistency across Probation Services. If you think of supermarket chains-and we have lots of Tescos-if there is a failing Tesco, the management of Tesco works out why it is failing and does something about it, or at least brings it up to a group average. Why is that inconsistency of result allowed to persist? Is it a failure of inspection or is it a failure of these organisations not talking together or some other outside factor, in your view?
Professor Kemshall: I don’t think it is a failure of inspections. We have a lot of inspection reports and a lot of effective practice reports. Perhaps it is a failure to implement the learning from inspections, first, and perhaps also a failure to recognise that the Probation Service operates through individual probation trusts rather than as a single national unit in that sense. If you have that pattern of delivery, then you will get variation. It is a speculation, but I would suspect that the best performing areas in effective practice have senior management leadership and drive about that particular agenda.
Q652 Claire Perry: Thank you. Could I turn to risk management systems? We know the Probation Service has been very focused on risk reduction, and your point about media hype-meaning the risk focus on sex offenders was increased-is a very important one. Do you think the existing probation systems, and in particular the tiering of the staff structure, which is something we keep coming across, have helped allocate the resources effectively? Related to that, do you accept the idea of trying to push a bit more responsibility and broadness of approach down into the Service is a good thing to do?
Professor Kemshall: Tiering is an inevitability. Resources must follow risk and resources have to be rationed. There is no way round that. The resources for probation are finite and, in fact, are shrinking. There is always going to be a need to target resources most effectively at risk. OASys has helped with that tiering system-the level 1, 2, 3 and 4 tiering system-but there are two problems. The first is that OASys can still be inconsistently applied across all the trusts, and even, indeed, within a trust. Although it is still an important KPI for probation, one could see the use of that KPI as driving that quality up, hopefully. Also, one might wonder whether the tiering at levels 3 and 4 is exactly right. There tends to be, on occasion, a confusion about high risk of reoffending and high risk of harm. That can be a problem in how that tiering works.
Q653 Claire Perry: That leads into my final question. As we see potentially more involvement of voluntary and private organisations in managing the offender, do you think the duty of protection can be adequately controlled in those transfers? Is it a question of making sure OASys leads you to the right people to be passed over, if you like? What would be your view on how that universe of providers could work together to make sure the risk of harm is reduced or minimised?
Professor Kemshall: A decision would have to be made on the level of risk beyond which you could not pass that case-that person-on. You might decide that only low or medium risk cases were going to be passed to the third sector to supervise. In some senses that already happens. Probation trusts do commission services from a range of providers and partners to do that.
Taking the question as a whole, I don’t think we can be sure, one way or the other, about the competence and capacity of the third sector to deal adequately with levels of offender risk. We do not necessarily know whether there is a competence and skill gap there to do that. Commissioners of those services would need to be assured of that through a rigorous tendering process. If you are going to pass a risk you need to be sure that the provider can adequately deal with it. That mechanism would have to be there.
Q654 Jeremy Corbyn: Welcome and thank you for coming to help us with our inquiries. This question is to Professor Pease, but I would like to hear comments from your colleagues. What evidence do you have for suggesting that community sentences offer no measurable level of public protection?
Professor Pease: There are three that I would like to compare in evidence. The first is the Ministry of Justice analysis, which uses the Copas statistical predictor of reconviction, which you will find up to and including, I think, the 2009 adult offending cohort. There you will find that statistically predicted and actual rates of reconviction for the community sentence group are almost exactly identical.
The second one, as Carol Hedderman rightly says, shows a slight superiority of community sanction, or, rather, probation, over short prison sentences. It also shows superiority, of course, of long prison sentences over short prison sentences. The problem with both those analyses, and indeed every other analysis which has been done in this country, is that they cannot take account of things that are not in the dataset which the court takes account of. It is a statistical predictor, but if the court takes account of relevant factors above and beyond the factors which the statisticians take into account, there will be spurious additional treatment effects. The effect that Carol Hedderman refers to is very interesting because it is very age specific. It is very, very small for young people and substantially larger for older people.
The third kind of evidence that I would call attention to is this. You will be aware of the Campbell collaboration-it is like the Cochrane collaboration in medicine, whereby the methodology of a variety of studies is compared and the gold standard, which is randomised controlled trials, is used to reach conclusions. The person who was commissioned to do the analysis of short custodial sentences against community sanctions was under the direction of Professor Martin Killias, a Swiss criminologist, and 300 studies were reviewed, of which five met the standards of randomised controlled trials and showed no statistically reliable difference in rates of reconviction. There were some strange individual effects, but I probably shouldn’t go into those because it would take me some time.
Those are the three. The Campbell collaboration result, which is randomised controlled trial-based-from five studies worldwide because it is very, very difficult, some would say unethical, to make random allocation as between short custodial sentences and community sentences, so there are only five worldwide-demonstrated no reliable difference between the sanctions. I always feel I need to make a caveat here. I don’t want it to be like this. I want community sanctions.
Claire Perry: Neither do we.
Professor Pease: Quite so.
Q655 Jeremy Corbyn: Do you mean this is an inconvenient truth? Is that what you are trying to say?
Professor Pease: I believe it is a truth. Carol may disagree. I am convinced it is a truth and it is one that I would wish to change by incentivising-I am very interested in the social impact bond approach, for example, and ways of incentivising community administrators of penalties to make things better-but it feels like a truth to me.
Q656 Jeremy Corbyn: If we accept your analysis, have you done any further research on the quality of life of exoffenders later on between those that did custodial sentences and those that did community sentences, such as educational attainments, achievements, family, etcetera?
Professor Pease: Yes. These were the perverse results from the Swiss study of Martin Killias that I described, because they show a marginal, nonsignificant superiority. I should make it clear that this was a comparison, in this case, against community service, not against probation. That comparison showed that short custodial sentences had slightly more reconviction, but not statistically reliably, for the first five years. However, for the following six years the thing reversed, so that people who had had a short spell in custody showed better social adjustment in years 6 to 11 than people who had been given community service. I do not know how to interpret that.
Q657 Jeremy Corbyn: How about your colleagues?
Professor Kemshall: There are two things I would like to add. My area of interest is the most harmful-the highest risk-offenders. It is worth remembering that in 2009, for which we do have figures, only 0.26% of the probation caseload out of some nearly 180,000 offenders who would have been supervised in the community at that time, went on to reoffend seriously harmfully and to necessitate what is called a serious further offence report.
Also, there may be other ways of thinking about this issue. For example, I am a member of a probation trust board which is either very close to the top, or indeed the top, in terms of the performance measure on reconviction. The way in which that is measured currently for that service is to contrast the predicted rate taken from the risk assessments in OASys: in other words, what it is expected those offenders will do and what, over each quarter, they do do. This particular service performs very well in terms of people doing less than is expected of them. It may be quite interesting to contrast the very best performing trusts on that measure against those which are at the bottom, and to ask whether there is anything different, in terms of what they do to achieve those rates, that could help us here.
Professor Hedderman: I understand Ken’s point about random controlled trials. The difficulty is that that sort of approach comes from such things as trialling medicines where you expect a heart drug to basically work the same way with people. That is true in controlled trials for medicines, but when you deliver it in the community you find that people who are more overweight do more or less better on it, or that older people may do more or less better on it, so it is a prescription issue as well as an effectiveness issue. Your GP has to accurately decide what sort of medicine is suitable for you.
What the random controlled trial thing does is to say, "We are going to ignore the expertise," or, "We are going to ignore what the sentencer thinks should happen in this case. We are going to randomly give you either a custodial sentence or a community one," and "Oh look, it’s ineffective." It doesn’t seem to be more effective because you haven’t taken into account the particular circumstances of the individual. I am not convinced that random controlled trials are the best way of evaluating something like a patient. Aside from the ethical issues, there is a question of: do you expect a probation or prison sentence to work equally well for different people?
Q658 Jeremy Corbyn: Breaking the Cycle, the Government’s Green Paper, calls for more effective and robust community sentencing. Do you have any views on this and do you feel that that is going to make much of a difference? That is to any or all of you.
Professor Hedderman: Sentencing is intended to do a number of different things, and every individual sentence is expected to do something, or probably all of them. There is a distinction between whether that aim of sentencing will have an impact on future behaviour. "Robust", to me, tends to sound like it is a punishment. There is a difference between holding people to account and being punitive. I think holding people to account is quite an effective way of starting to work with them to reduce their reoffending. Although I don’t have a problem with punishment in itself, it is quite important to distinguish whether punishment is effective in reducing offending. My own view is that it is not particularly effective. Certainly short doses of prison do not strike me as effective.
Professor Pease: Could you repeat the question? I beg your pardon.
Q659 Jeremy Corbyn: Yes. In Breaking the Cycle the Government emphasises the need for more effective and robust community sentences. My question is: will this make much of a difference in your view? Do you think it is a helpful suggestion from the Government?
Professor Pease: During the 1970s I was head of the Home Office Research Unit’s social work section and therefore responsible for various treatment initiatives. One was called IMPACT-intensive matched probation and aftercare treatment. The thing that frustrated me then-this plays into what Carol said-is that interactions are really important. To give one example from that era, it was the case that certain personalities of probation hostel warden were much more effective at stopping absconding and reducing reconviction among their charges than others. I asked repeatedly over the next 20 years whether these personality factors were ever used in selecting probation hostel or other wardens and, uniformly, they were not. If you like, the raw material for working out the interactions that Professor Hedderman refers to simply were not followed up. That is why the incentivisation of the Probation Service and other community agencies to do this strikes me as really important. Again, the social impact bond strikes me as an interesting way of developing this point.
As to the ceiling of that effect, I really don’t know. Whether it will confer equal levels of public protection relative to custodial sentences is perhaps open to question, but it is certainly something worth striving for.
Professor Kemshall: That is why it might be worth comparing the best with the worst, because it might tell you what it is that people do that underpin the community sentences that are making a difference.
Q660 Mr Llwyd: Does the assessment of reconviction rates provide a reliable and robust means of measuring the effectiveness of various sentences?
Professor Pease: It seems to me that it is the only one the public has any right to look at. One’s lifestyle is one’s lifestyle and reconviction is when people intrude on the lives of others. My concern is that it is not a level playing field in terms of the way in which it is counted. Reconviction rate is counted from the date of release from imprisonment and it is from the date of sentence for community sanctions. That discounts the one thing that custody does do, which is to keep people away from those on whom they predate for a short while. It seems to me that a level playing field would require counting from the date of sentence whatever the sentence is. That would, of course, make the benchmark for community sanction success much higher. That doesn’t particularly worry me because it is a more accurate statement of public protection afforded by different forms of sentence.
Professor Hedderman: Can I put a different alternative to you? If you want to have a level playing field, the alternative way of doing it would be to not count reconviction until the sentence ended. If you think of probation as being like a course of antibiotics, it is unreasonable to expect it, on day 1, to have its effect. The alternative would be to wait until the probation order has ended and wait until somebody comes out of custody. If you measured it that way, probation would come out looking significantly more effective than a short custodial sentence.
The simple fact about reconviction measures is that it is the best one we have. It isn’t in any way perfect. Basically, you have a choice between accuracy and transparency. The more accurate you want to make it, the more complicated the analyses get about what exactly you are measuring with what. It is, at the moment, the best thing we can do.
Q661 Chair: Although there is a difficult decision to make about which measure to use to apply payment by results, there is no reason, is there, why we shouldn’t have all three of these forms of information available to us as a general means of assessing?
Professor Pease: I agree, but I still like the "from the point of sentence". This is only an argument by analogy, and therefore flawed, but if you are looking at five-year survival rates for medical treatments, one of which involves hospitalisation and the other does not, then you start counting from the point of diagnosis, not from the point of discharge from hospital, which would give an advantage to the others.
Government statistics are vulnerable in three ways in relation to crime and justice. This will be one sentence, I beg your pardon. First of all, it understates the extent of crime, for example, by discounting serious crimes in the British Crime Survey. If you believed what people told you, which is what the British Crime Survey is supposed to do, then those who are chronically victimised would be much greater-a woman who has been hit by her husband every Friday night for the last year will have suffered 52 times, but the British Crime Survey will count it as her having suffered five times, so that is truncated. If you believed people, that would be much greater. The second is it understates the degree of inequality between areas and people in the extent to which they are victimised. The third, because of its use of, for example, prevalence measures-reconvicted or not reconvicted-rather than the number of offences for which they are reconvicted and those which are taken into consideration and others-Yes, Sir Alan?
Chair: I am having difficulty hearing you.
Professor Pease: Yes, okay. In all those three cases, it seems to me that official statistics understate the extent and the inequality of distribution and overstate the effectiveness of penal sanctions.
Ben Gummer: I missed that last point as well.
Professor Pease: I am sorry, I was trying to be brief.
Chair: The third of the three.
Professor Pease: The third one is the effectiveness of criminal justice systems. If one looks back at fine payment rates, to take one example which is not too contentious, I think, it is one which was savaged by the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office a couple of years ago to the point that we do not know what proportion of fines imposed are paid and, if so, in what rate; there is also a set of perverse incentives to administratively cancel fines in certain circumstances. I use that as one easy example because your fellow Committee has made that point hitherto. I could produce other parallels in terms of things that are ignored. For example-
Chair: That is a long enough diversion from Mr Llwyd’s line of questioning, so I will put him back in charge.
Professor Pease: The reason why I went in that direction-I apologise that it was a diversion-is to say that reconviction is one figure but if you say "reconvicted/not reconvicted" you are understating it, as is typically the case in crime and justice statistics relative to the amount of crime which people suffer.
Q662 Mr Llwyd: But there is no unanimity as to when the period should start. You take your view and presumably another view is taken by other members of the panel. Your view is that it should start from the point of sentencing. You have explained that position.
Professor Hedderman, you have been critical in the past of the use of crosssectional snapshot samples used for measuring reoffending rates rather than the conventional longitudinal approach. Can you explain what the difference is and why the choice of technique is so important?
Professor Hedderman: The reason most studies take commencement is that we know most people who reoffend after a court order or release from a prison sentence do so within about the first six months and the majority of their offending will certainly happen in the first year. If you take crosssectional samples from the probation caseload, you are taking people who were sentenced yesterday, who are at very high risk, and people who have been on caseload for three years, whose risk is quite low, so it undercounts the extent to which the Probation Service are getting fresh cases in and dealing with high risk. That is the first thing.
The second thing is that the Probation Service tends to weight its work towards the front end for that reason. Even if they are getting credit for the people who have been there for three years they are not doing, usually-unless they are very serious cases-a lot of intensive work with those people. They have done that in the first few months. It is falsely suppressing how much reoffending those people are doing. It is this transparency thing as well, in that it gives you yet another set of different figures that look much lower than the annual reconviction rate for probation. The study I did in the East Midlands, when I looked at the overall East Midlands reconviction rate using a standard approach, came up with pretty much the national level of reconviction. I feel it is easier for people to understand if they see that the national rate is about 38% and the local figure is about 38%. They can see that they are coming from the same sources.
Q663 Mr Llwyd: Your view, presumably, will be important in terms of modelling payment by results.
Professor Hedderman: The payment by results approach will be done on a commencement sample, yes, not a caseload sample.
Q664 Mr Llwyd: I beg your pardon?
Professor Hedderman: The Peterborough analysis will be done on a longitudinal approach.
Q665 Mr Llwyd: On a longitudinal basis. That is presumably what you would like to see rolled out generally on payment by results.
Professor Hedderman: Yes. It is only the local reconviction comparison. The area conviction is the only one that takes a caseload approach. All the others take the standard approach.
Mr Llwyd: Thank you.
Q666 Elizabeth Truss: I want to ask a question about payment by results. It sounds, from what you have been saying, Professor Pease, as though the only effective interventions are where it does not only involve the Ministry of Justice but wider public agencies; for example, the DWP and the Work programme or, perhaps, social services or the NHS. How could a payment by results model work across those services as well as just the Ministry of Justice?
Professor Pease: I don’t think I am at all equipped to answer that question-not remotely-because the community safety partnerships, which I am more familiar with, have enormous difficulty, and the Department of Health is also extremely relevant in such things. The point is that payment by results would at least give an incentive for change, which I believe is now limited to the professionals-the community service and probation administrator.
Q667 Elizabeth Truss: You also have payment by results working in other areas. For example, somebody who has been convicted of a minor offence may also be part of a payment by results programme to get back into work. Could those things be integrated? Would that be helpful?
Professor Pease: With the motivation, I see no reason why not. There are two caveats, if I may, and one is an historical one-the Californian probation subsidy scheme, which should be looked at by the Committee in written evidence. It tried payment by results of a kind in 1965 that fell apart in 1970, for reasons that remain in dispute but include some of the difficulties that you half allude to.
The second one is that, when it is evaluated, it seems to me important that you get some grizzled practitioners to look at it because there are all kinds of ways and means by which you can distort the figures by early terminations and back-loading stuff-all kinds of things. You need a grizzled practitioner. I fear I have not answered your question.
Q668 Elizabeth Truss: On the subject of community sentences versus custodial sentences, you have said that community sentences are not effective in reducing reoffending, essentially.
Professor Pease: Not relative to other things, as Carol Hedderman correctly says.
Q669 Elizabeth Truss: What about the cost benefit of them? Clearly, the costs are lower. If you had to do it on a costbenefit basis for a particular person being convicted of a particular crime, how would you assess one against the other?
Professor Pease: I did a piece of work for Civitas about six months ago which tried to calculate that and which I would be happy to supply the Committee with. What it showed, effectively, was that it depends on how many undetected crimes people have committed. The Home Office has costings of crime, and if one applies those costings of crime alongside the sanctions, then what I got it at was something like, on average, five and a half to six undetected crimes. If somebody, for every conviction, commits more than, say, six undetected or unconvicted crimes, then the costbenefit analysis comes down in favour of custody.
Q670 Elizabeth Truss: Could the rate of detecting those undetected crimes improve by the use of more halfway house solutions, for example, tagging and you mentioned probation hostels earlier? What about those types of solutions where people who have been convicted aren’t necessarily in custodial sentences but are being more closely monitored? Have you investigated the effects of those kinds of interventions?
Professor Pease: I have not. Does anybody know? Can the collaboration stuff help?
Professor Hedderman: There is an evaluation by an organisation called Matrix, which comes up with slightly different results to Ken. It basically says that community supervision, particularly with a form of monitoring, is more cost beneficial than prison.
Q671 Elizabeth Truss: Do you have that information?
Professor Hedderman: I can get that sent to you. You have got it.
Professor Pease: I would make one comment on that. That is true and the methodology is excellent. The trouble is that the standard for community sentence reconviction rates is not taken from Ministry of Justice statistics. It is from Campbell collaboration best performance statistics, so it is an unrealistically optimistic statement of the effects of community sanctions in that paper.
Q672 Elizabeth Truss: Do the panellists think it would be helpful if courts, when putting together sentences, had the information about the cost benefits of the sentencing for the particular crimes committed? Do you think more research should be done into the area to understand what the costs and benefits are?
Professor Hedderman: My answer is an unequivocal yes. The courts are not particularly well informed about the effectiveness of different penalties. When you ask sentencers what they would like, they don’t really want reconviction rates. They want to know about the cases they themselves have sentenced. It is quite a difficult thing to persuade them that it is information they would find useful. I don’t think they see that need themselves at the moment.
Q673 Elizabeth Truss: Presumably, they would want to know the efficacy of the sentences they are passing.
Professor Hedderman: I think not, actually. I have been interviewing judges and magistrates over the last summer and their view is that having passed sentence-and this is particularly true of magistrates-they have done their job. What happens thereafter is the responsibility of the Probation and Prison Services. Different magistrates might have a different view, but that was the consistent view I got from the interviews I conducted.
Professor Pease: Yes. I support that. In the old days-and it may still exist-there was a little booklet which was given to all magistrates called "The Sentence of the Court" and it had an annex by Dr W H Hammond about the reconviction rates after different sentences. Whenever I talked to magistrates, I always said, "Have you read the annex in ‘The Sentence of the Court’?" I have never found one hand go up in any magistrates meeting that I ever attended to say that they had read the statistics at the back of the book.
Q674 Chair: The community courts work on a different principle where that kind of experiment has been operated, as in Liverpool. You have members of the judiciary who see it as part of their job to follow up the offender through various stages and establish whether they are making progress or whether the sentence has to be varied.
Professor Pease: That is Carol’s point, isn’t it, that they are only interested in their own outcomes?
Professor Hedderman: The difference with a community court is that their approach is problem solving. Most courts are there to punish people and for public protection. That is not quite the same thing as a problemsolving approach where they are focused very much on the individual in front of them and what might be done to change that person’s behaviour.
Q675 Chair: But don’t magistrates say, "I don’t want to see you in this court again"? I’m quite surprised that you say that.
Professor Pease: That is to the person in front of them, not everybody else. That is an indication to the individual.
Q676 Elizabeth Truss: I want to ask a final question about the international evidence on this and also the way international systems work. It seems to me, with a cursory look at it, that some other countries have more of a joint correctional service which will have a combination of custodial and noncustodial sentences, so more of a continuum. Do you think a system like that would be better in Britain rather than the very separate sort of custody and probation regimes we have?
Professor Hedderman: We all thought that is what NOMS was going to achieve and has not come anywhere close to achieving.
Q677 Elizabeth Truss: Why hasn’t it? Do you think it is a good objective?
Professor Hedderman: There is an interesting phenomenon in Britain: you take the results of research, the Government take them on and they somehow reinvent them in their own image. I don’t think anyone would disagree with the idea that you should have seamless management, but somehow that becomes an organisational and bureaucratic objective. The same is true of offender management. The idea behind offender management is that it is better to have one person dealing with the offender. They build rapport and relationships. What you get as an offender management is the bureaucrat who is in charge of linking all the different little bits together. The concept never seems to get turned into practice; it gets bureaucratised. There are a lot of lessons we could learn from abroad and that seamless approach-
Q678 Elizabeth Truss: Which country would you pick from a hat?
Professor Hedderman: I think Australia has probably more of an understanding of the relationship that you need to build with the offender. On the organisational front, I am not sure I am convinced that structures are necessary. Our Probation Service and our prisons do communicate pretty well with each other at an individual level but, because it is at an individual level, it may not be consistent. That is Hazel’s point, that there is inconsistency.
Professor Kemshall: It also has to be said that here, at home, it is interesting that the police and probation have made quite a strong partnership, particularly around integrated offender management-which I think you will hear about later this morning-and also in terms of public protection. It shows that MOJ agencies can work together and it is interesting perhaps to have some lessons about how those two do.
Q679 Elizabeth Truss: Can I get your views on the international point?
Professor Pease: I have nothing helpful to add.
Q680 Chris Evans: I want to focus on training and I direct my question to you, Professor Kemshall. The new probation qualification award was introduced in April 2010. What is your view of how it is working? Are staff being given significant time to train and is there significant supervision and support?
Professor Kemshall: It is a little too early to tell how well it is working. It came on stream in 2010 and we need time for the cohorts to go through, to evaluate that properly and to look at whether the structure is going to work particularly well. It does bring some very particular benefits here, especially to probation support officers, PSOs, because, perhaps for the first time, it is giving them a coherent structured training pathway, particularly up to level 3. It gives a clear pathway of both training and career progression for that grade to probation officer level. It is also quite important for PSOs in that it relates to the tiering question asked by Mrs Perry. PSOs are now increasingly taking on a lot of community supervision and engaging with high risk cases and we know, from previous inspection reports, that that is a grade that needs to be trained well in terms of risk.
Q681 Chris Evans: I was concerned that the 2005 Napo survey stated that 72% of responders said there were too few opportunities for staff development. This was echoed later by research at De Montfort University. Why do you think this came about-
Professor Kemshall: Could you repeat that, please? I am struggling to hear you.
Chris Evans: I am sorry. Perhaps it is my accent, is it?
Professor Kemshall: No. I am struggling to hear you.
Chair: It’s the acoustics in this room, I think.
Chris Evans: It is the acoustics. I will speak up. I am often accused of shouting, so I kept my voice down.
Napo’s survey of 2005 said that 72% of respondents felt there were too few opportunities for staff development. This was echoed later by a De Montfort University study. Why do you think that situation came about, or why do you think there was that belief there?
Professor Kemshall: Do you mean in terms of staff development for people in the workforce currently?
Q682 Chris Evans: Yes, why did they feel there were not enough development opportunities there for them?
Professor Kemshall: A proportion of that is going to relate to the issue I have just spoken to, which was the grade below probation officers, PSOs, the Probation Service officers. They are slightly confusing terms, I think, which is a little unhelpful. Traditionally, people had to leave that grade and leave their employment to go and train. There was no progression beyond that grade. You could move within it and receive incremental payments and so on, but there was no progression through that grade. Also, in terms of staff development within grade, I would suspect there are difficulties, in terms of inservice training, of people feeling that there are developments within two particular specialisms; that people are building a portfolio of different skills through their work career.
Q683 Chris Evans: Do you think probation officers have enough training? Do you think it is about right now or do you think this is an area that should be looked at again?
Professor Kemshall: Did you ask me about probation officers?
Chris Evans: Yes. Do you think they have enough training or do you think this is an area where there should be a system of continuing professional development or something like that?
Professor Kemshall: Yes. We don’t know yet how well the PQF is going to work, for the reasons I explained earlier. Personally, I think it would help if we could see a clear pathway of building competence between years one and five within the workforce. We should not accept that, after the training period, I enter on day one and I am equipped to do everything. That is clearly not the case. I may need to learn a range of skills and competencies to deal with more challenging types of offender and offence types and more challenging types of risk throughout my career. At the moment, we don’t see that pathway and an awful lot of inservice training is by selfselection-members of staff choosing what they want to do-and much of that training is not then assessed in terms of competence on the job. We train but we don’t know the impact of that inservice training well enough.
Q684 Chris Evans: We have heard in the past, from other people in front of us, that there seem to be people recruited into the Probation Service but a high level of exit out of it. Why do you think that is? Do you think there is a general perception of probation and that there is a gap between what probation officers are prepared to do and what people think probation officers do? If so, how do we overcome that perception?
Professor Kemshall: Can you repeat the first part of the question, please?
Chris Evans: I am sorry, the table is creaking as well. I’m having all sorts of problems here. We have been told by people in the past here that people enter the Probation Service but there is high level of exit through being disillusioned, demotivated or whatever. The general feeling that has come out is that people have a perception of what a probation officer should do compared with what a probation officer actually does. How do we address that fundamental issue of perception? How do we get people to understand what is expected of them when they enter the Probation Service?
Professor Kemshall: Recruit better.
Q685 Chris Evans: How do we recruit better? What types of people are we looking at? What areas do we recruit from in particular? What I am asking, essentially, is this. If you had somebody in front of you as a probation officer, what qualities would you be looking for?
Professor Kemshall: To people who came, I would ask the question, "Why do you want to join the Probation Service?" If their first answer to me was, "Because I want to help people," or, "I like people," or, "I wish to work with people," that would worry me greatly. I would expect people to be able to express some understanding about the role and responsibility that they are taking on. It is a very big responsibility.
I am very struck, for example, when I train probation trainees and we are talking about risk and start to look at the case studies, that people can be extremely surprised about the sorts of people and the sorts of things they have done that, in a very few months’ time, they may be being asked to deal with. I think there is a misunderstanding about the challenges faced within the job. You need high resilience because there can be a lot of failure. Sadly, people do come back. People don’t always do what you think is right for them and, for some people, change is a very long journey; but also some people have done some terrifically awful things that have to be faced, talked about and changed.
Q686 Chris Evans: Have you done any studies into why people exit the Probation Service?
Professor Kemshall: Not personally. De Montfort has done those-I can supply them-and, indeed, they have been done by other researchers. There are issues about morale and about personal resilience to the challenges of the job, and particularly this issue of disappointment and failure. I think there are misperceptions about the workload and what that is going to look like and misperceptions about what some perceive as a mismatch between the facetoface contact work and the administration and bureaucracy of the job, which is inevitable.
Chris Evans: That would be interesting to have.
Professor Kemshall: Yes, of course.
Chair: We need to move on.
Chris Evans: Thank you.
Chair: We are all very grateful to the three of you this morning. We have had to compress things in a short time but we are very glad of your help. Thank you.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Mr David Chantler, Chief Executive, West Mercia Probation, Assistant Chief Constable John Long, Avon and Somerset Police, and Mr John Quick, Assistant Chief Officer, Merseyside Probation Trust, gave evidence.
Chair: Welcome, Mr Chantler, Assistant Chief Constable Long and Mr Quick. We are very glad to have your help this morning. As you will have heard, because you were listening to the previous session, we are working on the Probation Service at the moment and I am going to ask Robert Buckland to open the questioning.
Q687 Mr Buckland: Thank you very much indeed. It is good to have three witnesses from three different parts of the country, Avon and Somerset, Merseyside and West Mercia. The first question I want to ask all three of you is relating to your own local experiences about the term "offender management." It was a term coined by Lord Carter when he set up NOMS.
First of all, with regard to your own local experience with local partners, is there a shared understanding of what that term means? If there isn’t, what examples of any confusion have you found? An example I can give you is the newer term of "integrated offender management" that has been introduced. Has that caused some confusion at all in the common understanding of what offender management should mean?
John Long: I would be happy to start. It is a really pertinent question. Some of the historical understanding about what is meant by offender management has come from the world of NOMS and the modelling that followed various legislation five or six years ago. My own view is that the advent of developments such as integrated offender management have improved that understanding. The partners that I work with in the south west of England, in Avon and Somerset, do see it as more than just an endtoend process-out of the prison gates and into the prison. The fact is that we have the Prison Service, the Probation Service, police, local authorities, criminal justice, drugs workers, family intervention workers and so on working in the same project with the common purpose of reducing crime and protecting the public in their area through reducing reoffending. My experience has been that they absolutely understand what we are doing with that cohort of offenders that we are trying to manage and whose reoffending we are trying to come to terms with.
Q688 Mr Buckland: You see it as a general reducing of reoffending rather than individual risk management of individual offenders?
John Long: There is very definite individual risk management of individual offenders. That is part of the strength of the scheme which all the agencies recognise. I know, from having heard some of the previous evidence when you were talking about the rehabilitative pathways, all the partners I work with on my local scheme understand the interventions that can take place. Some say there are seven and some say eight; we have nine pathways on our local scheme and we sequence the interventions to the individual in a bespoke way. But of course overall we wish to see a reduction in crime in the area, increased safety and lower rates of victimisation. Each partner takes from that work what they see as the core benefits in the service that they are delivering to the public as well, in my view. It is very important, in such a framework, to understand that each partner brings distinct skill sets and experience. It is not about homogenising everything. It is understanding the sequencing and the actual interventions that individual offenders need, but we do have, certainly, a common purpose to improve things for the public in our locality.
David Chantler: I support that from my area. The word "areas" is significant because it does give the focus or the context in which one can understand what is required from partners. For instance, in West Mercia we are fairly unusual in that we buy in most of our pathway work from other providers, particularly through the context of our strategic partnership with the voluntary sector-a body-which means there does have to be that organic, holistic understanding about what we are all trying to do together. The fact that it is our local police we are working with, together with the local agencies and the local authorities, gives a focus to bring that to life.
The problem I have always felt since the term "offender management" was coined, as a result of Carter’s work, is that it is passive. It is a bureaucratic process. It is "the process". It has to be brought to life and can only be brought to life in local communities. That is where you make the linkages that make the difference.
To give you an example, we are very fortunate in Worcestershire-my largest local delivery unit in West Mercia-that there was a pilot for Total Place. That has opened up their thinking on how they worked with other agencies. Faced with a reduction in their Supporting People money and the removal of the ring fences, what they were able do was put £100,000 for each of two years into a joint project-but not administered by the Probation Service. We don’t want to grow; we want to act as the catalyst. We want to bring people together to make a difference, both for the community and for the individuals. We have matched that with focusing the interventions that we get through our pathway providers on the same families. For the same £200,000 over two years, matched by us with activity, we are focusing on what we can only know locally: the most vulnerable, the most at risk, the most likely to commit and the offending families in the area. That cannot be organised from Whitehall, yet what we have been through is a period of trying to run what is essentially a local service from the centre. There is ever more granulation of issues like standard benchmarking and costing, which makes the assumption that what we are looking for is a standard product. We need a product that meets local reality. We are in danger of getting ever better at doing the wrong things.
John Quick: Can I add something from a Merseyside perspective? In my view, there is a shared understanding of offender management and particularly, picking up on John’s point, in relation to the pathways into offending. By addressing those pathways, you can move people out of offending and from that lifestyle.
The other point that David has picked up on is localism. That is crucial to the delivery. If you are thinking about prolific and priority offenders, that brings local agencies together in a particular area to address specific concerns of the local crime in that area. For example, in terms of violent offender management-particularly in north Liverpool-there is a particular group that has been set up with the police, probation and other agencies working together to address the needs of that offender but in the wider context of that offending-more holistically within an offender management model.
Clearly, in terms of offender management there are key aspects that probation are prescribed to do, for example, the management of high risk cases through the custodial sentence, sentence planning and other activities. With a multiagency approach, through the Citysafe partnerships, the community safety partnerships, local IOM schemes, intensive community orders and PPOs, there is a shared understanding of offender management and what that means.
Q689 Mr Buckland: Mr Chantler touched upon it indirectly, but I want to explore the position with regard to the commissioning arrangements that existed up till April of this year and to find out your views as to what extent it was possible to achieve priorities relating to what you, as local partnerships, wanted to achieve-for example, intensive alternatives to custody schemes. How do you feel your ability was affected, either positively or negatively, by the commissioning regime as existed up until the spring of this year?
David Chantler: As a particular probation area, our determination was not to be affected but to find ways through. What we have achieved has been done despite that regime. I will give you a few examples very quickly.
It was wonderful that the centre, after Coulsdon, wanted to invest in women’s services. We got an investment from the centre in a very good project in Hereford, which got plaudits from the thematic inspection of services for women; but that wasn’t coordinating with the local Probation Service and we weren’t able to use our good offices to do what we are very good at, which is engage with the investment of other local agencies and indeed lever in money from other sources which would have grown that money. As part of the cuts, 12 months later-one absolutely understands the agenda-that money is withdrawn and the project closes. It was not sustainable. Had that money been invested through us, we would have designed in sustainability. To be honest, we probably wouldn’t have invested as much money in that particular project-a women’s project in Hereford probably did not merit that level of funding, certainly from one source. The other thing we would have done is made sure that that project was not dependent on one source of supply.
For instance, one of the things we have also developed, with funding from the Regional Development Agency because of the links into the local economy, is working with farmers to use their already fixed assets to develop care farms. We have encouraged them to seek to do work with people with mental health problems, learning disabilities and school refusers. There is a diversity of income streams so that people are not entirely dependent on the Probation Service. If you take it to the almost reductio ad absurdum of the unpaid work-the community payback contract-because of the commitment that I described earlier to get people to work with us and in partnership with us, we have other agencies paying us, to the tune of £300,000 in my budget for this year, to deliver unpaid work supervision. We are not precious that we have to deliver it. It is much better if people who have that in their area of expertise are working with offenders and giving them skills, sometimes with potential employment opportunities coming out of it, yet we have a Ministry of Justice that is proposing to pay people to do that which they are currently paying me to be allowed to do. It is a nonsense.
John Long: I, too, would say that the commissioning arrangements that existed until recently didn’t in any way contribute to the formation of integrated offender management in our area. It is true to say, I think, that our director of offender management was kept apprised of the developments and took an interest, but the commissioning arrangements were not pertinent. It came about by our local probation trust recognising that benefits would accrue from working with the other agencies and spreading their work across not just statutory cases but nonstatutory cases too. It came about from local authorities understanding that if we got the sequencing right, we might only have to rehouse someone once or twice rather than five or six times, with lower levels of harm to local communities as well. It came about from similar views in the local prisons and, from my own service point of view, an understanding that if we could work better with others we could reduce crime in our area. Reducing crime is a very expensive thing to do in pure policing terms and comes with the victims as well.
Each agency has found its own way of delivering through mainstream resourcing. There was no additional funding whatsoever because we felt the sustainability of this was absolutely critical for the future. Some agencies looked to different models. For example, my own police force, Avon and Somerset Constabulary, is part of a joint venture company with a big computer company and some of the local authorities in the South West. We work as a joint venture company to deliver savings into the bottom line which allow us to maintain our efforts in new projects like this. This does diverge from your question a little but, in terms of commissioning arrangements and so on, joint ventures may provide some sort of solution there further down the line when we are looking at things like PBR and other things.
Q690 Chair: Further down the line you are looking at-what? I missed the last bit of that sentence.
John Long: I was dipping into that subject really. Further down the line, one model of delivering offender management-including payment by results, financial incentivisation and probably still involving statutory agencies-may be joint venture arrangements, which seem to offer some possibilities.
Q691 Elizabeth Truss: You mentioned about working with other agencies locally. I am interested to understand how the Prison Service fits into that. Could you all comment on that?
John Long: We are blessed in my own area because we have a governor at HMP Bristol who was very prepared to work with other agencies, not just within the prison walls but outside the prison walls. For example, we have three prison officers in the integrated offender management unit in the city of Bristol who ease the management of offenders in terms of their sentencing regimes inside the prison and then the continuance of those outside the prison; the location of offenders in the prison estate that can allow certain interventions to be brought to bear; and the identification of risk factors that allow us to concentrate on those who present the greatest risk of reoffending. Actually-I would say this, wouldn’t I?-I think it is a pretty seamless way of working as well that they have brought about within that local prison.
David Chantler: I support that in the sense that my experience of working with individual prisons and individual prison governors has been similarly positive. It is a case, though, of the spirit being willing and a lot of the flesh being very weak. The reason I say that is in West Mercia we have more than enough prisons to meet our local needs, but Herefordshire commits through Gloucester Prison. Shropshire and Telford used to commit through Shrewsbury Prison in the heart of the community, which was easily accessible but- again no consultation with us-the local prison function was switched to Dovegate on the DerbyshireStaffordshire border. Worcestershire, fortunately, commits through the prisons at Redditch, the Hewell cluster, and we have got very good at working with them. Indeed, up until a couple of years ago, with the whole of the prison region, we ran a very successful rehabilitation programme for shortsentence prisoners who otherwise got no postsentence supervision. That demonstrated, with external consultants looking at the figures, significant reductions in reoffending and savings to the public purse, using the voluntary sector to deliver the postsentence wraparound service. That would not have been possible without that high level of engagement from the Prison Service, but it was funded by European money and, at that stage, NOMS did not wish to be seen to be a cofunder for European projects and the project was not able either to be continued locally or rolled out nationally.
That-I will finish quickly because I am sure John will want to say something as well-also speaks to another part of the Prison Service contribution which is that we suffer, being between London and the lesspopulatedbutmoreprisons north, from the ripple effect of London prisoners being sent to our prisons and our prisoners being sent to the north. We need to go back to Woolf’s recommendation after Strangeways and make a priority of community prisons. When the prisoners are physically available and accessible, you can do all sorts of things through the prison gate, like Connect demonstrated. I would urge you to make that a key part of something that you attend to, or as much as possible: seal prison regions so we can physically work together.
John Quick: I can pick up on that point and hopefully give you a really good example in terms of HMP Liverpool, because that is a community prison. It is working towards getting the majority of the inmates in there from the local community. Of course, that assists in resettlement back into the community, whether it is short term or longer term. The linkages between probation and prisons are particularly important, not only in terms of the shortterm custodial sentences within IOM-there is going to be a pilot project around that, where a voluntary organisation has been commissioned to deliver mentoring services to shortterm releases in Liverpool and Sefton-but I think also for the longerterm prisoners. If we can make it easier for offender managers and probation officers to have contact with offenders face to face, that facilitates the engagement. We know that the relationship between the offender and the probation officer or the offender manager is crucial in terms of enabling them to desist from reoffending.
Q692 Elizabeth Truss: If it is all going so well locally and prisons are working together with the Probation Service, the police and the local DWP and so on, what value is the national structure adding in any of this? What is the purpose of having a national Prison Service, a national Probation Service and the NOMS structure and whatever is going on at the Ministry of Justice? What is the value there?
David Chantler: Is that a real or rhetorical question? As you have seen from my CV, 10 years ago I was involved in the modernisation team that designed the national Probation Service. That is before NOMS. That was bringing together a central directorate for the Probation Service. The rubric we had at the time was "strong centre, strong local" because there were clearly problems with the previous 54 completely autonomous probation services. That paradigm, if you like, was creaking fit to bust. You couldn’t have 54 completely different versions-indeed, the funding arrangements were such that some were massively well resourced and some were very poorly resourced. Some local authorities thought there was an 80:20 split on the funding so, "If we put £1 in we draw in £4 worth of central Government funding. That’s a good deal." Others felt, "Any pound we spend on what is essentially central Government concerns is not a good deal." All of those things were driving unacceptable and irrelevant difference. Therefore, things were brought together 10 years ago to get that sense of consistency and leadership but still focusing on strong, authoritative local probation. It is now 42, based on the footprint of the police areas-that coterminosity was massively important in moving things forward. What is sad at the moment is that is beginning to break down: for instance, CPS West Mercia have now gone into a wide West Midlands CPS arrangement and yet we are told the Government is not interested in the regional structures anymore. Coterminosity really allowed us to move on.
For the reasons that you are aware of-you have heard about the Carter report and you have heard about the creation of NOMS-I think that balance shifted during those 10 years towards the centre and away from the local. What was really important in the design 10 years ago was that it said "strong local and strong centre", not one at the cost of the other.
Q693 Elizabeth Truss: Also, as well as having an increased centralisation, it now strikes me that there are three vertically reporting lines.
David Chantler: Absolutely.
Q694 Elizabeth Truss: In other countries you have a correctional service which contains both prison and probation at a local level, but you do not necessarily have two chains of command going up nationally. Don’t we have a lot of duplication here?
David Chantler: Absolutely.
John Long: I have a couple of thoughts on that subject that you just covered there. Some probation chiefs in charge of probation areas may say the alignment between probation and police is a more meaningful one than probation and prisons on occasions.
Q695 Elizabeth Truss: I wouldn’t exclude the police from that. I am saying do we need all those other-
John Long: No, and I am not putting a case for the police to be aligned, but, in an indirect way, it gives a view from within NOMS that possibly those vertical reporting lines, as you say, might not always be helpful. In terms of the local versus the central tendencies of NOMS or other departments, I very much support what David has said about managing offenders on a local basis. Crime is essentially a locally based activity; let us deal with it locally, and so on. I am absolutely in line with that.
Having said that, I have a responsibility within the Association of Chief Police Officers to support the embedding of local practices nationally. It seems to me that we need some coherence nationally as well. Investments and positive schemes in different parts of the country that then bring about benefits and lower reoffending rates are fine, but if someone walks out of a prison gate in another part of the country where there isn’t that sort of net, then those investments evaporate. It is about keeping that local dimension but understanding that perhaps we also need some coherence nationally. We cannot always leave it to local chance that you are going to have a Rolls-Royce scheme.
John Quick: I would support the view in terms of localism. It can be very different. In Merseyside, as an area, there can be differences within local authority areas-and it can be vastly different-and the priorities for those particular areas are different because of the populations which they are serving. I think it is really important to be able to have the flexibility to address the needs of the community. I agree as well that there needs to be leadership in terms of the direction of what we are trying to achieve so that we can learn good practice from others.
David Chantler: I suggest, with respect, that perhaps what needs to happen is segmenting the notion of the upward reporting. The problem is at the moment that I am required to report upwards on the "how". What ought to be required by the centre-in the world that would fit what we are trying to describe-is that you are meeting the needs of local communities and the need of engaging properly with the police and with the prisons-"Show us how you are doing that." It will look different in West Mercia. Even within West Mercia, it will look different within Telford, which is a large new town, than in Hereford, which is one of the most rural communities in the country-it has to look completely different. But don’t tell me, with fine probation instructions and fine SBCs, exactly how I am going to do that. I will find the appropriate ways. If I am wrong-and the way in which you hold me to account for that, for instance, is getting feedback from the local partnerships and from the local authorities-and if I am not meeting that centrally mandated requirement to meet the needs of my partners, then sack me, but don’t tell me how to do it on a daytoday basis.
John Long: Can I very briefly come back to one final point around probation, police and prisons working together? You may find it interesting to watch the Channel 4 Dispatches programme next Monday where they followed three offenders over a 12 month period through our scheme in Avon and Somerset. You see them going in and out of prison and prison officers engaging outside the prison walls and so on. It is a shameless plug, I know, but it is a thoughtprovoking programme, seeing the dilemmas of offender management at different stages of offending careers.
Q696 Elizabeth Truss: As to the whole structure at the moment, we have heard accusations in previous meetings of the Committee that the sentencing is following the provision rather than the other way round. Our view is very much that it should be the other way round, that the sentences should be determined and the provision then provided. One of the comments you make about the prisons not being provided locally is a big problem. Surely, prison capacity should follow the local requirements for that capacity. One of the issues is that there isn’t a proper costbenefit analysis or an analysis of the effectiveness of the various sentences that courts are giving out. Do you think it would be better if there was more of a role for magistrates and judges to understand the efficacy of various sentences and what could be provided locally in coming to their determination, and how would you see that working? Do you have any ideas about how that could work better?
John Long: Interestingly enough, I was in a meeting with many of the judges who sit at Bristol Crown court a couple of weeks ago talking about this very issue. They were very engaged with what the different schemes could offer in terms of their sentencing options and so on. I felt that they were very engaged and were much more confident about what those sentencing options could be as a result of hearing what has been put in place across the different sectors providing offender management locally.
Q697 Elizabeth Truss: Did they have an awareness of the costs and benefits of the sentences that they would be giving?
John Long: Certainly we were talking about the £50,000 a year, or thereabouts, that it costs to keep people in custody-in prison-and, yes, they were engaged with that. It was interesting to hear the previous panel putting their views about that issue, because there did not seem to be a consensus about the best way of doing that there. How we would bring that about, I suppose, would remain to be established, but I can certainly see how your line of questioning would allow us to make investments in the places that are going to bring a benefit.
John Quick: In terms of magistrates, sentencers and judges being involved in what is available in terms of community penalties, in Merseyside-and in particular around the intensive community order, or the intensive alternative to custody-they were very much informed. They understood what the project was aimed to deliver. The feedback that we have had from sentencers is that they valued the restriction, the punitive element, but also the rehabilitative strand that the intensive community orders could offer. That gives an example of how magistrates, sentencers, can understand the benefits of community penalties. There are other aspects as well. It was picked up in the earlier panel around sentencers giving feedback on the progress of offenders through their order, which gives an added value in terms of that. That could be for drug rehabilitation requirements.
Q698 Elizabeth Truss: Would you advocate that budgets will be held at that level?
David Chantler: I wanted to take us back to that because you have the nub of the problem in the very first part of question. The problem is that a lot of the resource has already been deployed ahead of the game. It has been deployed by our own commissioner who has an interest in all of those investments being made in the prisons that are sitting there. The more intensive programmes we come up with-I have given you the example of care farms in my area and I know Merseyside have developed some very successful intensive programmes and that Manchester, for instance, have some very good intensive programmes-the more expensive they become, but the money has already been committed ahead of the body to an existing resource. How do you get the resource freed up to follow the body?
I would go as far, but then I am a bit of an extremist in these things, as to give the magistrates and the judges their own budgets. Unfortunately, they won’t do it because-and I can understand why entirely-they would not want to have the concerns of filthy lucre around the dispensing of justice in a particular case. One therefore falls back into a position, which I am reasonably happy with, of saying that the Probation Service locally should commission a lot of the services for the local sentencers.
Q699 Chair: Possibly including prison?
David Chantler: Including a large chunk of prison. If I was free to make a decision about investing in shortterm prison places or care farms-which are not cheap-I could take an offender, put them in the middle of nowhere doing meaningful work, learning skills-in our case employmentrelated skills as well but, none the less, a whole range of social skills-in a range of workingtogether skills, and they would be well out of harm’s way. It could also be added to with curfews, etcetera, during the evening. If I got to do that at the expense of a normal probation order, my probation service is bust within a couple of weeks; if I could cash in some short prison sentences, we would be doing very well. The Youth Justice Board has shown that that approach works. They have given back large numbers of custodial places because they have had the ability to commission services according to local need.
There is a big question here about how you get the money out of where it has been put. It is one reason why we have been talking to social finance about trying to raise money outside to get ahead of the game so that we can demonstrate success. Unfortunately, because we work as part of Government accounting, we cannot hold reserves or carry money forward from one year to the next. We are very limited in how imaginative we can be. We have to try and get the money to the head of the queue rather than constantly using that which has already been bought for us which, overwhelmingly, is the prison estate.
Q700 Ben Gummer: If I can roll on from your comments there into talking about evidence base, of course, with Probation Services you don’t even have control of your own estate, do you?
David Chantler: Absolutely.
Q701 Ben Gummer: Could I ask a question about the current letting of PBR contracts? It concerns some of us on this Committee that it is being done on a horizontal basis, by prison or by probation area, and actually it should be done on a vertical basis, letting an entire area, with prisons, probation and community punishment all rolled into one. That might address your issue about how you get money out of prisons and put it into probation. If you are responsible for fixed costs of a prison but you are going to make a bonus from a community sentence which works, you have an incentive to reduce your fixed costs in the prison.
David Chantler: There are real problems, it seems to me, around the economics of prisons, which is, of course, that you cannot access the money until the last prisoner goes. Fixed costs are a massive proportion of prison costs, so you have to be able to close a whole prison to get the saving.
I would move this slightly into a different dimension. I agree with the horizontal integration, but I know from my local authority-or certainly some of my local authorities-that if we could free up the money we have to spend through the central contracts on property we could move into onestop shops and move alongside the services that it is really important probation officers work alongside.
Q702 Chair: That is without prisons. Are you talking about just the central contracting side of the way probation is run?
David Chantler: Yes. We have a national estate-
Chair: And national IT as well.
David Chantler: -for which we pay a fixed cost. I would rather be out of that, colocated with other bodies and then deciding how to invest to save money along with those partners.
John Long: I can give a specific example, if it helps. My colleague, who is chief of probation in Avon and Somerset at the moment, is in negotiations with the police, CPS and others to move the entire probation staff into a police building that we are refurbishing in the middle of Bristol next year. We are very hopeful that that can take place and we will be able to have shorter corridors again and work together, but the central estates contracts that are in existence for probation are making that very tricky. I think she is going to overcome them, but it is quite a long drawnout process.
David Chantler: But she and I should not be spending our time fighting about estates contracts. I am a probation officer, at the end of the day; I am not a property manager. I do not particularly want my property back; I want freedom to utilise the property that is most functional to what I am trying to do as a probation officer. I pay as much money for a community punishment tool store somewhere in the middle of Worcestershire as the London Probation Service pays for a probation office in Mayfair-if it has one in Mayfair.
John Long: May I come back to the point about horizontal, vertical or otherwise? There does seem to be potential there to me, certainly working via the local partners in my own area, for strong governance for the integrated approaches that come from the local criminal justice board, including the Court Service, the CPS, the defence community, police, Victim Support, etcetera, and, not least, probation, who have been a real driver in bringing that together. We do have a view that if some of those budgets could be pooled or aligned in a different way then we could start to look at payment by results in a different way as well and take the risk as a collective along with private partners and the third sector. If we deliver, obviously there are benefits in that.
With things like the cash-flow involved in surviving payment by results schemes, it seems to me-I am a trustee of a charity myself-the big problem is how you take some of the cashflow against that, but we can do that as a collective. Looking round the country at the moment and looking at the work of some of my colleagues, for example, in London where they have established the reoffending board with probation and others, there does seem to be a body there that could do the sort of things that you are inferring.
Q703 Ben Gummer: Could I ask each of you about evidence base, please? You speak anecdotally of the excellent results that you have achieved by degrees of integration. Have you been able to measure that in terms of reduction in crime and in cost effectiveness? Can each of you describe how you make those measurements?
John Quick: Can I start with the intensive community order, or the intensive alternative to custody? I want to pick up a few points that I think are indicators of that scheme, in particular, being successful. I will, first, pick up on the compliance rate because that was expected to be around 40%. The offenders are a complex group with complex needs and that was the anticipated compliance rate. Nationally, it achieved 56% and locally, in Liverpool, it achieved 67%. That demonstrates, for this group of offenders with very complex needs-previous poor compliers, likely to have been through the revolving door of going in and out of prison-that if they get the community order, there is evidence they comply. That is one indicator. That is based on the fact that the offenders were engaged by the offender managers and the other agencies working with them.
Q704 Ben Gummer: I am not trying to diminish what you are saying, but I wonder, on an absolute basis, have any of you been able to measure a reduction in reoffending rates?
David Chantler: Can I have another go at that? We could spend all day arguing about reducing the reoffending metric. I think everyone now agrees it is not a very helpful metric, and for a number of reasons: it measures police activity; it measures the efficiency of the courts; it does not distinguish between frequency and seriousness of offending-a whole range of things. None the less, we need to use what we have. Looking at that, I can’t demonstrate a causal link, but I can say that we have our most significant and sustained reduction in reoffending, as heavily caveated as that measure might be, precisely in the area of north Worcestershire and among the age group where we have targeted the investment we got from the Barrow Cadbury Trust on developing transition to adulthood programmes.
Q705 Ben Gummer: That doesn’t seem coincidental, does it?
David Chantler: It is not coincidental, but I cannot prove it is causal. It is strongly associative, but it is not necessarily causal. I do not want to overstate the case. I have an example here sent to me from the Cheshire Probation Service, knowing that I was coming today, where they have been working with a housing association and have worked through the saved cost to the public purse from, it seems to me, the quite excellent work they are doing providing support and accommodation in the community-again through a third sector partner. I earlier mentioned the Connect project we had. We did demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the MOJ or Home Office-MOJ at the time-that that was successful in reducing reoffending among that highly recidivist group. We got very interesting work done by an external firm of consultants, Hydra, that again worked out the saving to the public purse. That stuff is around.
John Long: We have had specific work done to analyse the effect on reoffending rates on our scheme. I am grateful to my colleagues in the Metropolitan Police for helping us because they had some resources and the methodology which is grounded with an academic group of 10 eminent academics, Professor Mike Hough, Professor Betsy Stanko and so on. We were able to show-and I think we provided written evidence to this end to the Committee-a reduction in offending from 0.5 offences a month to 0.3 for the most prolific band of offenders, those with 76 or more previous convictions. That was done on a methodology where reoffending before the scheme sentence and post scheme was being measured, and there is a longitudinal study going on at the moment. We can show specific evidence of that nature and we can also show that that is costing about 25% less per case we are managing through the inputs that we have made.
Q706 Ben Gummer: Are the costs you are associating there direct costs to the public purse or are there softer costs in there?
John Long: They are direct to the public costs, but in softer costs-and I make reference to the Home Office report on the costs of crime to individuals and households, which I think the Committee has mentioned previously-taking the figures from that and extrapolating it into our own local area, the cost of crime to the city of Bristol, where this scheme has operated in the last three years, we calculate, has fallen from about £500 million a year to £300 million a year. Some of that is imperfect science because, obviously, it does not cover all the serious crimes that we have been trying to target, but if we also add in the fact that providers such as housing, health and so on are putting less into it because they are being applied more efficiently, we start to see the costs stack up quite considerably.
Q707 Ben Gummer: That is what I am trying to get at. In terms of cash cost-I am not trying to denigrate the wider costs-to the public purse, are you demonstrating a reduction?
John Long: Yes.
Q708 Ben Gummer: I have one final question on the evidence base that you have. Is it sufficient? Is there any way that it can be improved? Is there anything that Government can do to make sure that the data you are working on is better than it is?
John Long: I am sure my probation colleagues will agree that there is quite a lot of sluggishness involved in getting data out of the central repository. The performance data that most agencies had to take account of up until last year could sometimes take six months to arrive with us. It is not very dynamic and a lot can happen in six months. In helping colleagues across the police service to embed IOM locally, I have suggested that they use similar methodologies adopted here, in London. In fact, the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office are helping us to do that by the recent production of what they have called two tool kits whereby we can get consistent measurement across the country on what is happening with our reoffending schemes by using this sort of grounded methodology. There is a lot more travel to be had there, but I can see certain promising developments coming together that may help us deliver to you the figures in a much more coherent way.
David Chantler: I want to support that and say, in my experience, six months is a fairly fast turnaround. Your reducing reoffending statistics are six months old? That is good, in so far as what we are used to. Absolutely, in terms of the sluggishness of the feedback, but-
Q709 Ben Gummer: Would it help you do your job better if it were quicker?
David Chantler: Absolutely. The other side of it is to go back to what you were saying about cash and soft. There is something in the middle where Government could help, which is about turning theoretical cash savings into really cashable savings. You can save, in accounting terms, let us say, on a prison as the population drops down, but of course, as I said earlier, you can only cash it when the last person leaves. How can you focus on those savings that remain beyond your reach but, by doing a few other tweaks, you could make cashable? There is a lot to be gained from looking at that area.
Q710 Chris Evans: The nub question, when we are talking about the Government’s intention to move towards short sentences, for all of you, is: do you have the capacity, along with other agencies, to manage that change? Also, do you have the financial resources, especially in this period of cuts? I am very interested to hear what your thoughts are should the Government carry out its intention to move away from short sentences. Is the Probation Service going to struggle? That is the short question, really.
David Chantler: The straight answer is if you give us all of our work with none of the resource you are saving from the prison-
Chair: Could you speak a little more distinctly, please?
Chris Evans: I am sorry, I couldn’t hear-
David Chantler: It is the other way round now. The simple answer to your question, Mr Evans, is this. If we were to take up all of the strain in the system from not having short sentences-I know the Government are not proposing not to have any short sentences-clearly we would struggle. The question is: what is the "break even" from the saving from the system in reducing the amount of short sentences and giving us enough to be able to cope? I would suggest, from our experience, a contribution to deciding that point is the way in which other agencies can be used to do a lot of the daytoday work. You are talking about very simple things. For instance, if you had a prisoner coming out of a prison it is reasonable to achieve for somebody-but it doesn’t have to be a probation officer-getting them to their home area and getting them signed up with the jobcentre, a GP, a bank and all the rest of those things before they get to their drug dealer. There are some very simple, straightforward interventions that will make significant changes. If, as part of the shift from short sentences to being picked up in the community, we also have the freedom and the ability to manage the money that has been referred to earlier to engage in that sort of commissioning, we can do a lot with it.
John Long: I agree with much of what David has said there. From an ACPO position, we have already stated that we think we can manage offenders in the community through things like integrated offender management in partnership. A lot of the capacity that we have created so far has been on the basis of existing resources to make it sustainable, but if we were to see a reduction in, for example, the prison population on the basis of community sentencing, ACPO takes the view that at least some of that saving should go to probation, police and other frontline providers so that we can manage those sentences and bring about the reoffending outcomes that we are all seeking. That seems like common sense to me.
John Quick: I would support that view. The reality is that you have to look at the caseload, for example, for offender managers within the Probation Service. For meaningful work to go on, you need the resources to enable the offender manager to work effectively with the offender. John is right in terms of the pooling of resources that IOM has brought about in different fields, whether it is PPOs, the violent offender management unit or other initiatives like intensive community orders, which provide that added base.
I will give you an example of how, in Merseyside, we have tried to address what might be considered small things, but which are absolutely crucial to offenders who have been released from custody. We have built, within our offender management, a volunteer mentor process that is enabling activities such as getting offenders to the Benefits Agency, helping offenders with accommodation referrals and looking at lifers coming out of prison and how we can enable them to have a more effective resettlement when they have been in prison for so long. These small activities can be really crucial to the resettlement and rehabilitation of offenders.
David Chantler: It has the additional benefit of involving more and more people with offenders and getting a much wider understanding and ownership in the community of those activities. We choose to buy that service in from a partner agency that specialise in training, recruiting and deploying volunteer mentors. The principle is exactly the same. You have a wide group of people out there in the community that know a lot of offenders are sad. There are ones that are really bad, absolutely, but there are sad people we are working with and volunteers and mentors can make a huge contribution to that.
Chris Evans: That brings me on to my next question.
Chair: I am afraid it will have to be the last.
Q711 Chris Evans: How have other agencies responded to your need to promote community safety at the moment? How are they responding, and is there any scope for improvement?
John Quick: I can give a few examples where I think agencies-
Chris Evans: We are short for time.
John Quick: I will be very quick. We have offender health provision in probation officers, nurse-led, in three of our local delivery units. That is a really good example. We have very positive outcomes in enabling offenders to get access to dentists, GPs, doctors and having health assessments. There are other examples of how the local health authorities have responded in terms of drug and alcohol interventions and in securing provision for alcohol treatment requirements. That has been a crucial thing in Merseyside for us to achieve. Those are two examples. I could give you more but, as we are short for time, that will be sufficient.
John Long: I have similar examples to John. I have additional ones, though, with access to things like a debt support network. Some of the studies in London, for example, have shown that finance and debt as a pathway is very crucial. We have colocated nurses providing assessment services for offender health and mental health issues. That has helped us greatly on our scheme. Third sector alcohol workers are a significant feature of our alcohol pathway, and, again, the involvement of any number of agencies such as BusinessWest in terms of employment opportunities.
David Chantler: Very quickly, and in fact John has covered the same area, I do not think we should ignore the role of business. We have had tremendous support from our local chambers of commerce. We have made some interesting breakthroughs in terms of engaging with employers on the issue. I mentioned earlier the AWM investment. That is working with ordinary working farmers, to work with offenders-not producing silos, the stigmatised offenderonly provision, but posing the question: What can this community do, against whom people have reoffended but, in the end, have to be part of, to sort the problem out? The role of the Probation Service is to be a catalyst to enable that to happen, not to have people pushed over to us, "You sort that out" and send it back to them when they are sorted. Sorry, that will not work.
Q712 Chris Evans: I noticed in your biography the gardening work you are doing with Monty Don. It is very good.
David Chantler: Yes, absolutely. It is a really good example because, when we were doing that, to begin with, of course, people were really worried about us coming to this lovely little village in north Herefordshire.
Chair: We really are running out of time.
David Chantler: In the end, people were knocking on the project door to say, "What can we do to help?" That is the point.
Q713 Chris Evans: Could you write to us with some examples of that?
David Chantler: Yes.
Chair: Thank you very much. I am sorry that time is working against us, but we have other responsibilities to carry out as well. Many thanks to the three of you for your help this morning. Thank you.