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Justice Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 92
Taken before the Justice Committee
on Tuesday 15 January 2013
Sir Alan Beith (in the Chair)
Nick de Bois
Mr Elfyn Llwyd
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Peter Kilgarriff, Chair, Corston Independent Funders Coalition, Jackie Russell, Director, Women’s Breakout, Sharon Spurling, Deputy CEO, Escape Family Support, Support for Women Around Northumberland (SWAN) project, and Joy Doal, CEO, the Anawim project, gave evidence.
Q74Chair: Welcome. We are very grateful to the four of you for coming to help us with our work on women offenders. We welcome Peter Kilgarriff from the Corston Independent Funders Coalition, Jackie Russell from Women’s Breakout, Sharon Spurling from Support for Women Around Northumberland-which in my view is a particularly good thing to do-and Joy Doal, the name of whose organisation is so long that I cannot remember what the acronym stands for.
Joy Doal: It is not an acronym; it is an old Hebrew word.
Q75Chair: The fact that it is printed in capital letters in my notes made me think it must be an acronym. What does it mean?
Joy Doal: It means the poor and the oppressed-literally, the little ones or the forgotten ones.
Q76Chair: Is yours a church-based organisation?
Joy Doal: Yes, Catholic-based.
Q77Chair: In the course of today’s session we plan to focus on the adequacy of community provision, including women’s community centres for women in the criminal justice system and on the edge of it. It might be helpful to give you the opportunity to provide an overall assessment of the progress on implementing the Corston recommendations. I am sure all of you have views on that-perhaps quite strong ones-and a quick word from you on that would be a useful starting point. Who volunteers to start?
Peter Kilgarriff: I will throw in my pennyworth. To my mind, there is no doubt that the Corston review heightened awareness of the whole issue about women in the criminal justice system. It underlined the differences between women and men in the criminal justice system and pointed to some answers. It also led eventually to some money coming forth from the Treasury-via Maria Eagle, as you know-which enabled some flesh to be put on the bones in terms of the creation of women’s centres. Joy and my colleagues will know more about this, but initially they were thought of as one-stop shops that would help with the complex issues that women face, of which offending, in our minds, is more of a symptom than an outcome. It raised the understanding of these problems and led to the creation of a network of centres. It led to the creation of the infrastructure body, which Jackie heads up, and the Corston Independent Funders Coalition, which joined with the Ministry of Justice to help fund the centres for the first two or three years. There were also other practical things to do with the prison regimes, on which it cast a light, and which were changed.
There were some achievements, but those have now stalled. We have lost our champions in Government; we have lost people who are really interested in this issue. It has fallen down the priority list, and the centres are under great threat in terms of their financial viability. We are talking to NOMS about this. One of the roles of CIFC is to try to keep open the channels with Government officials and Ministers. We are talking, but at the moment we are getting slightly more and more depressed.
Jackie Russell: At the time when the Corston report was published we saw some quick wins, and undoubtedly there has been some progress. Assessment of progress is: yes, there has been a little bit. As Peter said, the leaders and shakers around that agenda have changed. As they have changed, the agenda has not been picked up again. We saw some quick wins with stuff that was short, easier to do, and located in the criminal justice system. But what we have not seen is sustainability of change, or any real engagement of the other major players around women offenders’ lives that the Corston report explained so well. Peter is quite right. It feels as if the process has stalled. There was some early progress but it has not been driven home.
Joy Doal: Having the women’s strategy team in place was a huge plus, and its loss has been noticeable. The fact that that brought together people from Health and other Departments to try to break down some of that silo thinking was good. That seems to be lost now, with that team going, which is a shame. What is also being lost is what came out of the Corston review: the money to set up one-stop shops. That enabled us to work with women who were at risk of falling into the criminal justice system. You could do some early preventative work with those women who had multiple and complex issues but had not yet been caught for an offence, so you could divert them much more cheaply, and also help them move on in their lives without having got a criminal record. It is a lot easier to get somebody into employment who has not got a criminal record. At the other end of the spectrum, women on the cusp of custody, who were getting five days or seven days in prison, could be diverted into the women’s centres for community sentences. Both of those ends of the process are now under threat. We won’t be able to work with those women at either end next year, which will be a shame.
Q78Chair: We as a Committee have previously expressed concern that NOMS tends to be preoccupied with the vast majority of prisoners, who are men.
Joy Doal: Yes.
Q79Chair: You have all described what is partly a structural problem. Clearly, there is a problem in that there is a lot less money around at the moment, and in that situation it is very difficult to do what you want to do, but there seems to be evidence of a structural problem about where decisions are being taken that affect women’s lives.
Joy Doal: But it’s cheaper-an awful lot cheaper.
Q80Chair: What is cheaper?
Joy Doal: For a women’s community project to run a community sentence in the community is very much cheaper than probation delivering that. It is probably 40 times cheaper than that woman being in prison, so this is not really about cost.
Q81Chair: We will come on to some of that. Ms Spurling, what is your thought?
Sharon Spurling: The Corston report helped us move away from looking pretty much only at enforcement. We were able to do much more of the wrap-around stuff, looking at people’s accommodation, their families and their relationships. We were able to build quite strong partnerships across the public sector, in social services, probation and health, as well as working with GPs. One of the things we welcomed was the additional suggestion of working with women on domestic violence issues and prostitution. I support what Joy says. There is a danger that early intervention and looking at the wider issues that affect women and lead to women offending could be lost, because we are going back to being very insular and looking just at offending, and not the other issues that are going on.
Q82Nick de Bois: I would like to turn to the Government’s publication "Transforming Rehabilitation". I would rather not go down the route of talking about the introduction of payment by results specifically at this point, because we are going to look at it in more detail in a minute. Mr Kilgarriff, perhaps you would kick off with an answer to this question: what is your overall view of the implications for female offenders of the proposals in the Government’s paper "Transforming Rehabilitation"?
Peter Kilgarriff: Without mentioning PBR?
Nick de Bois: It is not that you do not have to mention it, but we are going to dig into that later. We are not avoiding the subject. For example, I am conscious that there is really only one paragraph that deals with the subject, so there is more to come, but it is your view I am interested in, not mine.
Peter Kilgarriff: My view is that now women are not really considered by policymakers. The difference between women’s and men’s offences is not considered. The Corston report concentrated as much upon women at risk as upon women who had offended. That element of women at risk, and all the complex problems that Joy mentioned, is not touched upon at all by the rehabilitation revolution.
Q83Nick de Bois: In fairness to the report, it talks about dealing with all offenders. Are you really saying there has been no recognition of what was suggested in the Corston report-that there are unique circumstances surrounding female offenders-and that you feel it should have been addressed in this document, or you would expect to see something later? What is your sense?
Peter Kilgarriff: My sense is that there will not be anything coming later. I would like to have seen it in this document. But there are things in the document that might help women offenders.
Nick de Bois: Such as?
Peter Kilgarriff: The thing about supervising all people who leave prison, irrespective of whether they have been there for a year or far less time. Most women go to prison for only a short time, and support after that might help, but to my mind that has been undermined by what has happened to the people who should do the support.
Q84Nick de Bois: I have got a specific question on that point for Ms Russell in a second. Ms Spurling, I go back to my first question about what you think the implications of the reform are for female offenders. I am sorry if you feel stifled because I am not encouraging you to go down the route of payment by results, but we are going to go into that later.
Sharon Spurling: It is a bit difficult, because the only part where women are mentioned is in the section on payment by results. I support what Peter said, in that the really important thing that comes out of this is the ability for everybody on a short sentence to have support when they come out of prison, irrespective of whether probation is involved. The situation we are beginning to work to now, which certainly happened earlier this year, is that we were asked to work only with probation and with women on supervision. Fortunately, a really supportive probation manager argued that we should be able to work more widely, so that we could take people from LMAPS- Local Multi Agency Problem Solving -from which we had been almost excluded. That is really important, because meeting those women at the gate, being able to sort out their accommodation, which is difficult in Northumberland, being able get them into services and start working with them immediately, is something that is very transforming from the report.
Q85Nick de Bois: Ms Russell, in your written evidence I was quite taken by the fact you suggested that, since May 2012, the Government had not facilitated involvement of the third sector in the preparation of their rather long-awaited document on strategic priorities for women offenders. That is definitely the case, is it?
Jackie Russell: That is the case.
Q86Nick de Bois: There has been no engagement whatsoever with the third sector.
Jackie Russell: There has been no engagement with Women’s Breakout, which represents the women’s sector. I am not aware of any engagement with any other agency. We did try through the Reducing Re-offending Third Sector Advisory Group. That group was asked to produce a paper, which you probably also have referred to in your written evidence. The work was managed by Clinks, so it might be in its submission. We were asked by the Minister to produce a paper about the strategic issues for women. One of the strong recommendations that came out of that paper was that a strategic pulling together of all the agencies was absolutely vital. We took that paper to the Minister, who made very positive noises about it, but then we seemed to hit a stall with the officers, so it never went further. I have also asked to be personally engaged in the development of the strategy.
Nick de Bois: You were personally asked.
Jackie Russell: I asked them if I could be involved, because I meet regularly with members of NOMS and the Ministry of Justice. I have asked on a number of occasions where the strategy is, whether they need our help, and whether we can possibly offer support. At this moment in time, no help has been asked for.
Q87Nick de Bois: I am a great fan of the role of the third sector, and I sense that the Government are great fans of it, too. It drives innovation and has a lot to commend it. Were you given any sense of why there was no wider engagement in that respect? Could you just speculate for a minute?
Jackie Russell: It is speculation. My background is as a chief officer in local government. I know how difficult it gets when you widen the pool of people engaged in writing strategy. It is quite hard, but also very rewarding, because you get a whole range of different perspectives if you do that. There is a part of me that thinks: is it about the fact that it becomes a harder exercise? There is also a part of me that says: because there has been such a delay and we still do not have a strategic position, was it ever really wanted? I do not know, but I do know that we have not moved further.
On the question that you asked Peter and Sharon about the implications for women, in this document the rhetoric says some helpful things, particularly about mentors. If every person leaving prison had a mentor on our model, we think that would be very good. The devil is always in the detail. What we see here are some words that sound okay at this stage, but, as the process rolls out and the money follows it, it is a little worrying that we might not see the high-quality mentoring that is needed to support women particularly, but all prisoners. While the rhetoric sounds good, is the thinking behind it right? It is rather a shame that, when things like that are put forward, you do not see examples of good practice as well. This document talks about mentoring as though it is not happening-whereas actually there are some really good models it could have used. In addition, the document is in no way gendered.
Q88Nick de Bois: On your role of mentoring, I met the Langley House Trust, for example, and listened to how they do things. Do you see engagement, effectively, as meeting the offender at the gate?
Jackie Russell: They see them through the gate. They meet people before they even come out of the gate, and as they come out, and then support them.
Q89Nick de Bois: And then you bring the multi-agencies together. I am trying to understand your-
Jackie Russell: Yes. What is really important about the voluntary sector is that whatever time that woman comes out of prison, even if it is 4 o’clock on a bank holiday, somebody is there to make sure she is safe for that night, that she has what she needs, and that she will not have to go back in to where she came from before because it is the only life she knows.
Nick de Bois: I understand.
Q90Chair: Ms Doal, you looked as if you might be about to say something.
Nick de Bois: I am sorry. I am not as sensitive to all the eye contact as I should be.
Joy Doal: I would say that, rather than having a mentor meet somebody at the gate when they have done three weeks in prison, stop sentencing people to three weeks in prison and put them in centres in the community instead. If you put a woman in the back of a Reliant van, maybe on a Friday afternoon, and drive her 76 miles to another prison, when she may not even have thought about who is going to pick up the children from school, she is in a panic. The whole thing is a recipe for disaster. That woman is left juggling all sorts of things, thinking, "Where are my kids? I don’t even know who’s looking after them tonight." She does not know what is going to happen to her house or all her stuff. Immediately she is popped there in the prison and is seen as a nuisance, because she is trying to juggle all these things and getting herself more and more irate, thinking, "What on earth?" She is immediately labelled. You could cut down all that waste immediately just by using the community projects that we’ve already got to do a sensible, robust, specified activity requirement, which we run in the community. She stays with her family, and her children do not have to go into care. The huge cost of that is just mad. We know that the levels of self-harm and suicide are very high for women on short-term prison sentences. It creates a revolving door. She comes out and her life is a complete mess again, because she’s lost her home, her furniture’s on the skip and the kids are in care. What does she do? She goes back into prison. It is a revolving door, and it is just so expensive.
Q91Chair: That prompts the question: why did the court give her that prison sentence? Was it because there was not appropriate community provision available, because the court did not know there was adequate provision available, or because the court was not confident that the community provision was appropriate or perhaps was a sufficient demonstration that society was not going to put up with what she had been doing?
Joy Doal: Probably all of those, but what happens if you disinvest from the projects that are doing well? We have women on specified activity requirements all the time, and they do really well and complete their orders. Our reoffending rate this year for women who had completed those orders was 1%, compared with 63% for those coming out after a short prison sentence at, say, Foston Hall. It does not make any sense. If you are talking about reducing reoffending, the services that we provide do make sense. But yes, we haven’t got national coverage. We can’t even deal with the whole of Birmingham. In some areas there is no provision for those women, but there could be-at a hugely reduced cost.
Going back to your original question, there are other things. One of the dangers with "Transforming Rehabilitation" is that all the people below tier 3 offenders are to be managed by a private company, because they are all deemed to be low-risk. But with women, you also have to understand that, although they are low-risk in terms of harm to others, they are very high-risk in terms of need, and of risk to themselves and their children, because their lives are often chaotic. They will be classed as a low tier of risk of harm to the public, so under these proposals nearly all these women will be managed outside. You can pretty much stick all the women in that box, because they will all be in tier 3.
Q92Jeremy Corbyn: I am very interested in the points you are making. What would be the equivalent community sentence to a very short prison sentence, such as five or 10 days?
Joy Doal: We do specified activity requirements, which are anything up to 60 days. That could be 60 days for up to 12 months.
Q93Jeremy Corbyn: Sixty full days.
Joy Doal: Yes. Someone may attend our centre 60 times-60 days-over 12 months, but it could be 30 days or 20 days.
Q94Jeremy Corbyn: What would she do on those days?
Joy Doal: She would access all sorts of support, and she would also access courses-offending behaviour courses, anger management courses, DV courses and drug awareness courses. There would be a full timetable.
Q95Jeremy Corbyn: Who monitors this?
Joy Doal: Probation. We work in conjunction with probation. We have colocated offender managers in the centre who manage the cases, but our support workers do the actual front-line support with that woman. She will have a worker who will deal with all her issues and help her with housing, issues with the children, social services and parenting courses. We have a crèche on site. It is holistic: everything is there for her in one place. She is receiving the support, but she is also undergoing punishment in terms of her liberty. She has to attend, because obviously that is part of the court order; otherwise, you have also got community payback by unpaid work. She can do hours in the community.
Chair: Perhaps we could stop there, because we are going to come back to the nature of what you are able to do with your organisations.
Q96Mr Llwyd: Arising from that, 60 days is quite intensive and obviously worth while, but, bearing in mind that a lot of these women have chaotic lives, how many fall off and do not complete?
Joy Doal: Not that many.
Q97Mr Llwyd: Roughly how many?
Joy Doal: We have a really good success rate. I cannot give you the exact figures, but very few orders are breached. If they are breached, usually it is at the very initial stages, when someone has not even come through the door.
Jackie Russell: I don’t think that 60 days would be the order for somebody as an alternative to five-day custody. That lower tier would have less contact time in a sense, although it could be, as Joy said-
Q98Jeremy Corbyn: What is the equivalent? If somebody would have been given, for example, a 10-day prison sentence, how much community work or community attendance would they get instead?
Joy Doal: It varies.
Q99Jeremy Corbyn: It is not that scientific.
Joy Doal: No.
Q100Chair: It is not that consistent.
Sharon Spurling: What also varies is that not all areas have access to specified activity requirements. In the Northumbria Probation Trust that is particularly around ETE, not anything specific to women. That area does not do conditional cautioning, so there are changes across the patch as to what you can access for women. If that was a bit more joined up, we would be able to give you lots more data, because we would all be working in the same kind of regime of monitoring and collection.
Q101Andy McDonald: Putting to one side the efficacy and appropriateness of noncustodial sentences and focusing on those occasions when custodial sentences are necessary, Her Majesty’s chief inspector of prisons suggests that women do best in smaller open, or semi-open, establishments. Given that, do you share the disappointment expressed by Baroness Corston to us in December at the Government’s decision not to accept her recommendation to establish small custodial units for women?
Jackie Russell: Yes, absolutely.
Peter Kilgarriff: Very much.
Jackie Russell: We have heard that small custodial units would be expensive, but what we have not seen is a fully costed proposal of what that would look like. You also have to remember that that proposal was based alongside other proposals that would have reduced the prison population. Whereas there are 4,000-plus women in prison today, the small custodial model was about asking questions such as: how many of those women should not be there because they are there for breach of an order that would not have resulted in prison anyway? How many of those women are there on remand? How many of those women are there for under three months, or under six months? Once you start to deal with those women appropriately, your prison population drops, which gives you a proper model, and it is that model that should have been costed for small custodial units. We have not seen that; we have just been told that it is too expensive and it will not happen. We are very disappointed that that proposal has not been looked at seriously.
Q102Andy McDonald: Have there been any improvements in the regime? Have you been able to identify any?
Peter Kilgarriff: It is difficult to see them. Some women’s prisons have been closed since the publication of the report. That has had the effect of sending women to prison further away from their homes and causing an increase in the numbers in some women’s prisons. That goes against what the chief inspector was saying and what we believe.
Q103Andy McDonald: Presumably, if we are on a trajectory of trying to reduce the prison population and the number of sentences being smaller, isn’t that going to result in women who are in custody being much further away from home in any event?
Joy Doal: Not if there were local small units.
Peter Kilgarriff: The norm that Baroness Corston argued for, and that we would like to see, is that non-violent female offenders are not sent to prison but are dealt with in the community. There seems to be evidence that not only is that cost-effective but it is more effective in terms of reducing reoffending, and in terms of the well-being of the women. There is evidence that women who have offended who work with women who have not offended-in other words, at a generic women’s centre, not a women’s centre that is seen primarily as a women offenders centre-develop much better.
Q104Andy McDonald: Are you really saying that, if we are serious about trying to improve the position on reoffending, we should stop doing what doesn’t work and spread out what does work?
Jackie Russell: Yes.
Peter Kilgarriff: Yes, absolutely.
Joy Doal: That would make sense.
Q105Mr Llwyd: Ms Doal and Ms Spurling, would you describe your particular projects, with a bit about the history, the actual work and the funding?
Sharon Spurling: Support for Women Around Northumberland got together to bid in 2009 when the second phase of the money from the Corston coalition came about. What made us a little different was the area we worked in. The county of Northumberland-I’ve got to get this right, haven’t I?-is 5000 square kilometres with a population of 310,000 and big areas of rural living and rural isolation, with some pockets of quite severe deprivation. We saw that the recommendations for a women’s centre would not work in Northumberland, so we developed a virtual women’s centre, if you like. At that time we called it the virtual onestop shop. Because of the diversity of Northumberland and the women and communities within it, we wanted to develop a partnership rather than have just one organisation. The organisation I work for, Escape Family Support, works with drug and alcohol users on addiction, and their families and carers, which is great for a cohort of women but not for everybody. We also got together with the Women’s Health Advice Centre based in south-east Northumberland, because they had a more generic and holistic approach around women’s health and well-being; Fourth Action, which is a social enterprise that works in north Northumberland mentoring women into employment and training; and finally Relate. When we first came up with that idea it sounded a bit odd; everybody thinks about relationships and repair. Relate was about that, but it also had expertise in counselling-generic counselling and sexual therapy-so we brought those partners together and put our bid in for Northumberland.
We hit the ground running in about February 2010. We realised at that point that the monitoring and evaluation was not great for all the projects. We were feeding into the centre but not really getting much back. In our first year we decided to bring in an independent evaluator, Dr Chris Hartworth of Barefoot Research and Evaluation. He was able to say that at the end of the first year we had a 70% reduction in reoffending for the women we worked with. We had about 122 referrals over the year. Those were women who had offended or who were at risk of offending, and also women who had offended again and again. We built the project from there.
We have some particular issues in Northumberland. We have a real problem around supportive accommodation for women, which is almost non-existent. Women have real issues to do with travelling around to access services. Our premise was always to take the service to the women. That would mean that, if we had to go to Kielder Forest to see a woman, that is what we would do; if it was in Berwick or Amble, our workers would go out and see the woman in the community. That really helps to engage women back in their local communities as well, so they become a bit more valued in the community. People see that they are tackling some difficult issues and coming out the other side.
I want to describe for Members the distances around Northumberland. If we had a women’s centre in just one place-in, say, Blyth, which is in south-east Northumberland-and we had to bring a woman from Berwick in to the service, it would be the equivalent of saying to a woman sitting here, "You need to go to Brighton to get that service." That is never going to happen; those women are never going to do that. In rural communities in particular, it is so important that the services are delivered in those local communities-and by people from those communities as well. One of the ways we get around the expense of travel is to employ people from those local communities or we develop mentors or volunteers who live in those communities.
Chair: It is music to my ears to hear there is recognition that you can’t meet the needs of somebody in Berwick-or for that matter in Haltwhistle or Kielder-just because there is a centre in Blyth. It is not feasible.
Q106Mr Llwyd: I am acutely aware of the problems of delivering in the rural setting, and what you say is quite encouraging. The model seems to work throughout the large expanse.
Sharon Spurling: Yes.
Q107Mr Llwyd: Can you say a brief word about funding before I ask Ms Doal to say a word?
Sharon Spurling: You will know that the funding has changed over the last three years. It was with the Ministry of Justice originally, then moved to NOMS, and this year it has moved to Northumbria Probation Trust. I want to say at the outset, in relation to the 70% reduction in reoffending, that we did another sample in 2011. We sampled women on suspended sentence orders who had worked with us. Not one of those women went back into custody. However, just before Christmas, I received a letter from Northumbria Probation Trust saying that they had cut our money and our grant funding would end on 31 March this year.
When I look at the consultation document "Transforming Rehabilitation", it says, "We’re going to do this with prime providers, and that’s going to happen before 2014." When I look at that, and I hear what is happening to other women’s community projects-they are being rolled on, and some might go out to tender; I understand that our pot of money will be going out to tender soon-I get a bit confused about what is happening. On the one hand, it looks as if the whole of support for offenders is going out to tender, but, equally, the trust seems to be putting that money out for tender now. So we’ve got 10 weeks.
Q108Mr Llwyd: So you are supposed to put in a tender, presumably.
Sharon Spurling: Yes, presumably-for a service to start on 1 April.
Joy Doal: We are in a very different position because we are in a city. It is quite different being in an urban area. Because of that, we are able to develop a physical onestop shop. We have quite a large centre, which used to be a school. As we have gradually grown we have built other bits on to it, but we are able to attract a range of partners to work with us. We have two further education colleges that come in and deliver their courses with us. The homeless charity Crisis delivers courses and provides a mental health practitioner one day a week. We have drug treatment like Addaction, the A-Team for alcohol and a full range of partners. Birmingham Settlement provides debt and benefit advice two days a week within the centre. We have colocated offender managers and a colocated mental health practitioner now as well. That is a massive advantage, as you can imagine, because it is all there in one place.
This all came out of some prison inreach work that we were doing in the days when there were women at Brockhill. We saw that in the first 48 hours when women came out of prison they had so many appointments to go to. They would be running across the city to go to different appointments-their probation appointment, and going to this and going to that. That was when the idea arose to put everything in one place. The woman has everything pretty much in one place and she can attend everything. Women were failing in those first 48 hours just because of having to manage the appointments. The women we are talking about tend not to have Filofaxes and diaries, or to have everything in order. Oftentimes they do not remember what they are doing tomorrow. There are huge advantages in having everything in one place. We get those services in completely free of charge, because it is meeting an alternative funding stream. The college has a target to reach a hard-to-reach client group, so it is able to deliver its service free. Equally, Crisis is funded somewhere else to provide those services, so it is a win-win. The probation service is now giving us a grant to provide something. Obviously, it does not pay for everything, but the added value to that probation grant is huge. It could not provide all those services across the board.
The advantage of having such things as a crèche on site is massive. Those women can come, leave their children and have that support. If you have to go and sign on and do your supervision appointment at a probation office, there isn’t even a box of toys or a nice waiting room. You are sitting in a waiting room with all the male offenders. Most of the women have been victims of domestic violence and/or sexual abuse, rape, child sexual abuse and so on. Sitting there with a group of male offenders is not a nice environment in which to be waiting for your appointment. Simple little things like being able to come into a women-only space and receive support are so important. To create that safe space has been key.
We are able to do so much more outside the funding we get from NOMS currently, because we can attract other funding. We go to four women’s prisons on a regular basis and provide through-the-gate support, but that is funded by the Big Lottery on a four-year grant, and it goes down each year. My problem is that, when it goes down each year, I cannot get that other slice refunded because, rightly, the Corston coalition are independent funders. I am writing bids to all their pots and they say, "No, it’s a statutory responsibility." You can understand that, but, unless the statutory responsibility group steps up, that is threatened. Our crèche is threatened, because we have Children in Need funding to run the children’s work that is finishing, and we have been refused a further grant. So that is under threat as well.
Q109Mr Llwyd: Overall, what would you say the future holds in terms of the percentage loss of funding? In other words, how much are you short from the next financial year onwards?
Joy Doal: Our budget last year was about £750,000, and I have managed to secure nearly £400,000.
Q110Mr Llwyd: So the shortfall is pretty substantial.
Joy Doal: Yes.
Q111Mr Llwyd: And you are still working on it.
Joy Doal: Yes-madly.
Jackie Russell: The probation contribution to Anawim has already been identified as going down by 17.7%. Originally it was going to go down by 30%, and Joy was asked to put together a proposal based on a 30% reduction. The reality is that they are now saying it is a 17.7% reduction. Probation’s budget is just a part of that £700,000.
Q112Mr Llwyd: But surely it is a false economy, because the work you do is saving money, isn’t it, when you analyse it pound for pound?
Jackie Russell: Yes, of course it is.
Joy Doal: An awful lot of money. It is like what happens with social services. We get shedloads of referrals from social services, and no money from social services. Yet let me give you one example of one family. We have a project called Reunite, which is about helping women when they come out of prison. We have a partnership with Midland Heart, which is a social landlord. When a woman comes out of prison, the housing provider says it will provide a property large enough for her to have her children with her, provided that she can get them back. What normally happens is that someone comes out of prison as a single woman in terms of housing, and she is housed in a one-bedroom flat. Social services say, "You can’t have your children back because you haven’t got a suitable property-and you can’t have a suitable property because you haven’t got your children." Reunite is there to get over that barrier, so Midland Heart provides us with a property that is large enough so that she can have her children back.
At the moment, we have a family of six children, all in social services care in different foster homes. We have managed to secure a four-bedroom house through Midland Heart. We have worked with the family; we have dealt with the issues and done parenting with the mother. We have been to all the case conferences and sorted everything out. Those six children are being returned to her care. For just that one family, that is probably a saving of £1 million.
Chair: I think Ms Spurling wants to come in on this.
Sharon Spurling: We would lose £160,000, which is not much in the great scheme of things, but it would be a lot for the women of Northumberland. We did a social return on investment exercise last year that was funded by the LankellyChase Foundation. For every pound of that £160,000 invested, we were able to show there was a £6.65 return on social value, which was equivalent to a benefit of £314,662 to the state, but a massive £748,000 benefit to those women. That is the benefit around all the other stuff you do with the women to move them away from offending for ever. Our £160,000 will stop on 31 March, and that will have a huge impact on women in Northumberland.
Mr Llwyd: I am very grateful to you for putting that on the record.
Q113Chair: Isn’t this such an imaginative and promising area, where both general fundraising and social investment bonds have a potential appeal, that there must be quite a lot of people who, if they got to know about your kind of work, would see it as something that they wanted to support, either by giving or by loan investment?
Q114Jeremy Corbyn: I want to ask you about the effectiveness of the centres. When you are doing monitoring or an evaluation, what weight do you put on the rates of reoffending as opposed to any well-being index you could apply to the woman concerned or her family?
Sharon Spurling: The programme was always about diverting women from custody and reducing reoffending, so quite rightly we have placed a heavy weight on that. When we have done an evaluation we have concentrated on those aspects. We sampled it by finding out what the women were doing six months before they were engaged with the project, and then what their arrest or conviction rates or charges had been once they had been engaged with the project. We have also used soft outcome stuff, which is around improvement in their family relationships, selfesteem and confidence-building. The model we have used for that is something called an outcomes star-a well-evidenced model that can track, with the woman herself, her progression in a number of different areas. Normally, there are about 10 points, which include offending, drug and alcohol abuse, social networks, family and relationships. We have used that to be able to assess what progress a woman has made in the time that she has been engaged with the project, in comparison with the six months before she started with the project.
Q115Jeremy Corbyn: Apparently, where there are women’s centres, the reoffending rate is 8.82% compared with a predicted 9.09%. Do you think that is a significant difference?
Jackie Russell: NOMS did.
Jeremy Corbyn: I know NOMS did but I am asking you.
Jackie Russell: The difficulty is and always has been with this evaluation that there is not really a coherent approach to evaluation and the data. That oversight went way back to when the £15.6 million was granted for two years. There should have been built into that something that put in place a data capture system that would have value to all the agencies. That did not happen. Different performance management regimes were imposed on the projects and kept changing as well. There has been a huge problem with this data. That is why my answer is that NOMS did it, because, to me, the data you see in our projects makes more sense. When Joy tells us that she has a 1% reoffending rate, that is significant. Sharon will be able to tell us her reoffending rate, and that is significant. The data that NOMS captured was about their actual assessment of the value of projects. They did that for only one full year because they kept changing it, so there is no trend data around that. What they showed in their returns was that figure, and they call it statistically significant. Therefore, in terms of evidencing it to the people who are making decisions, i.e. NOMS and probations, that has some currency; in terms of sitting here and talking to you about success rates, the data that the projects have for themselves makes more sense. Does that make sense to you?
Q116Jeremy Corbyn: It does. Where do you think the geographical gaps are concerning the provision of women’s centres? What is your view about access to women’s centres, or other appropriate services, by black and minority ethnic women? What is the ethnic make-up of the customers or clients you are dealing with?
Jackie Russell: There are huge geographical gaps. If you look across the country, there are 31 funded projects across England and Wales. You have to do the geography yourself, and it just does not come near to every magistrates court. To go back to what Sir Alan said earlier, you want every magistrate at least to have the option to refer to a provision like this, so the gap is huge. You might see some clustering a little around the cities, but you get projects like SWAN, which have been addressed through a partnership approach so they cover a big geographical area. The gaps are everywhere.
In terms of access to different protected characteristics-the black and minority ethnic community is probably the most significant-some of our member organisations offer specific services, but, because there are so few anyway, we have to rely heavily on the services that we have got understanding those support needs themselves. We are way back in terms of where local authorities and understanding was before the race relations work, but we are way advanced in terms of how we support women.
In this context, it is the fact that the individual is a woman that is very significant; the ethnic background is not so significant. Of course it is important, but when a woman is an offender and needs support around offending, her affiliation, if you like, is to a group of women as opposed to black people. The things that come out that need addressing are more about her gender than her ethnicity, but that does not ignore the fact that there are things about her ethnicity that are very important. So the projects have that sort of understanding, and different projects will engage different people from the communities in which they exist. That is important because you are supporting women in that community context.
One of the important things about desistance-Sharon talked about this; Joy did not, but I know it happens at Anawim-is that you need to connect a woman to a different social community setting from the one she was in before.
Q117Jeremy Corbyn: I am sorry to interrupt you, but is there a significant difference between the outcomes for minority ethnic women as opposed to white English or British women?
Joy Doal: No.
Jackie Russell: In the projects, no.
Q118Jeremy Corbyn: Not that you observed; there is nothing there.
Jackie Russell: No, nothing observed.
Joy Doal: No. Obviously, you have to monitor the ethnicity.
Jackie Russell: Again, you will also have some specialist projects. For instance, we have Hibiscus, which is working for foreign nationals and provides extremely important support for them. One of the recommendations Baroness Corston made was a strategy around foreign nationals. There is a really important difference there in terms of experience and outcomes, where those women are going and what their future is like. So that is different. But having 31 in the country does not allow a lot of room for specialism. The 31 are specialisms themselves because they are specialisms for women.
Joy Doal: If they were funded properly, you would be able to give an even better service. There are challenges.
Jeremy Corbyn: We have got that message.
Joy Doal: For example, if somebody needs an interpreter, we cannot afford to pay for them; it is not going to happen. The most that probation provides is a mobile phone and the language line. There are barriers like that, but that is the same for probation. If the funding was there, we could give a better service.
Q119Jeremy Corbyn: Most foreign national prisoners are actually in London, aren’t they?
Joy Doal: Prisoner-wise, yes. I am thinking more of community sentences. Particularly for Romanian women with absolutely no English, that can be quite a challenge. It is very difficult for them to engage in any meaningful activity. The same issue arises across all of probation. In unpaid work, we find it very difficult to engage Romanian women in work parties, even at the level of what paint brush and tools to use and explaining the very basics. It is very difficult.
Q120Steve Brine: We are now going to talk about payments by results, which I sense you are all chomping at the bit to do. Before we do that, I am finding listening to you, Joy, this morning a deeply depressing exercise. It is nothing against you.
Joy Doal: I am sorry.
Steve Brine: No, no, it is absolutely nothing against you; it is just deeply frustrating. We are not in politics just to seem to be going round the same circle. In your opinion, Joy, does anybody in government get it? Could they possibly?
Joy Doal: I don’t know.
Steve Brine: Be blunt with me.
Joy Doal: Probably not. We have a couple of hotels on the Hagley Road in the middle of the red light district that are used to house people. We often joke that we would like to put somebody like Mr Cameron in one of those for a week to see how he copes, but the experience of normal life, which is normality for a lot of the women that we deal with, is so far removed from here. It is very hard.
Q121Chair: At least one present Minister, Iain Duncan Smith, did try to find that out.
Joy Doal: Yes, but without a film crew and everybody else, and the fact that you know you have a bank balance behind you.
Chair: I do not think he did it mainly with a film crew, if I remember rightly.
Q122Steve Brine: That is just the process of government. Clearly, you cannot have a Government do that; they wouldn’t be able to do anything else.
Joy Doal: No, no, of course you can’t; I understand that.
Q123Steve Brine: But you have relatively new Ministers at the MOJ and a relatively new Administration. The previous one lasted for 13 years. Did anybody in the previous Administration get it?
Peter Kilgarriff: Yes.
Sharon Spurling: I think that people want to get it, but without having a strategy around women it is probably difficult for everybody.
Q124Steve Brine: But it is merely your opinion on the strategy, which you have backed up with various evidence. Mr Kilgarriff, does anybody in government care? Clearly, that is your opinion on this.
Peter Kilgarriff: It is my opinion. I think this is too low down their priorities at the moment to care.
Q125Steve Brine: Why do you think that is?
Peter Kilgarriff: It is my opinion. Part of it is about an ideological fix on diversifying the service provision. One of the things that really annoys me, if I might use that word, is the Government’s insistence on never making a distinction between for-profit and not-for-profit in the private sector. When the "Transforming Rehabilitation" paper came out and talked about the private sector, it meant Serco and SWAN. SWAN’s inability to engage in this agenda is widespread; it absolutely characterises the voluntary sector, particularly perhaps in the field of criminal justice, because, numerically, most of the voluntary sector agencies are tiny and very dependent on grants. There are one or two large beasts, but even those cannot put in the capital to wait for payment by results. Serco and G4S, for example, might be able to. That refusal to distinguish between the for-profit and not-for-profit private sector is extremely annoying, and it is a refusal. We have asked Government to make this distinction, because it is a very important one, but in public pronouncements it is never usually made.
Q126Steve Brine: On the new PBR regime, what role would or should CIFC have?
Peter Kilgarriff: I did not envisage CIFC having a role in PBR in any formal way. Trusts were one of the main investors in the Peterborough social impact bond. I hesitate to say it, but you used the word "depressing". We would try to put a brake on some of the PBR proposals, because there is something about the speed with which Government are saying this is working. It is not known whether it is working. For example, Peterborough is over a seven-year period. It is nearly into its third year, but there is no strong evidence yet. The evidence on the community-based work as well needs to be given time, and time needs resources. We are asked to prove a reduction in reoffending within a year. You can talk about individual cases and can present that.
Mr Corbyn’s question was about evaluation. I am not sure whether you were asking whether the centres themselves were satisfied with their resource, but usually it is the funders who say, "These are the evaluation criteria you have to use." If the evaluation criteria on this work are a binary measure, which is that you are either in prison or out, or you did or did not go to prison, and it does not take into account the complex journeys and stages of development and improvement in people’s lives, then I do not think it will work.
Q127Steve Brine: Jackie Russell, much of the written evidence we have received as a Committee and the terms of this inquiry were designed under the tag of local commissioning, which now seems to be moving towards a more national commissioning functioning. How will that affect your work?
Jackie Russell: We wanted services for women to stay at a national level. What we see happening this year with probation trusts confirms that is what should have happened. You have heard from Sharon about her funding issue; you have heard from Joy about hers. I met with 21 of the 31 projects just before Christmas, and talk about depressing-that was really depressing. I wrote up the sorts of things they were saying. The majority of them had been told that they were seeing 30% to 50% cuts in their services. Projects were being told, "You are going to have a reduction, but we now want you to cover the whole trust area." So, for Joy, that would be Stafford down to Coventry, Wolverhampton and Birmingham. There are some very big centres there and that is one of the big areas in terms of numbers of women offenders. Some were told that. Some were told, "You’re going to have all the women referred to you", so they would become the probation office for women. There is a whole range of different things.
Essentially, what has happened with the money that has driven this is that NOMS have passported it to probation trusts without managing the process. We come to Peter’s point about time. A timed-managed process might have been more effective, but they have just passported it to probation trusts. They have actually passported it to clusters of probation trusts. At the moment, 20 out of 35 probation trusts received funding like this. They have now passported it to five clusters. Say, for argument’s sake, that within those clusters there are seven probation trusts. Maybe two of them previously had projects; maybe five of them did not. The argument has now gone that that money has to be split among the seven probation trusts.
Not only that, but in some probation trusts they are splitting it down to their local delivery unit. We are seeing services that were previously supported but cost quite a lot. It was £160,000 here; Joy’s was about £250,000. A £250,000 service has now got one twenty-fifth of the budget that has gone to the cluster. For instance, in Reading, it means that Alana House has now got £16,000. You cannot even employ someone with £16,000. We have seen appalling behaviour but an unmanaged process. In an unmanaged process, it is a free-for-all for the money, so what is the easiest route? The easiest route is to spread it out and be done with it.
Q128Chair: But can national commissioning work for you?
Jackie Russell: National commissioning is what they had last year, which is NOMS commissioning that. NOMS do not want to do that, so they are moving it further away. I think a national contract could work, but that brings you back to the PBR problem. If there was a national contract at the moment and it was not NOMS but a prime provider or a large organisation, the problem is that it is driven by profit. On employment issues, we have projects working in prisons. For instance, Working Chance works in Holloway to support women in employment; Working Links is also in Holloway. I have visited that. The Working Links worker sat in the office reading the paper. The Working Chance organisation was working on a workshop with women to connect them to employment. It is Working Chance that gets them into employment and Working Links that takes the credit and the money.
That brings me on to another point. I have heard it said by the Minister that the voluntary sector needs to get more commercial. He quoted that an organisation had spoken to him and said that it was only being offered a contract with a prime, which would mean they would lose money. His response was, "Why would you take it?"
You have the voluntary sector here. They take it because they are concerned about the woman. They are working there because they are concerned about getting that woman into employment, not about saying they are providing a service that takes somebody else’s outputs and claims the profit. There is a real need to understand the motivation behind voluntary sector organisations and why they behave in a way that is not necessarily commercial, because by behaving commercially they have to walk away. That is what PBR is doing.
Q129Steve Brine: All of which is why the coalition-your coalition, not our happy family-says that what is being planned is a confused jigsaw without any clarity of vision.
Peter Kilgarriff: Yes.
Q130Chair: That brings me to something you both said earlier. Is it your belief that the Government are not going to produce, as they said they would, a strategy for women offenders?
Q131Steve Brine: Before you answer that, perhaps I may raise the gloom from my depression and let in the sunlight. Last week, when the statement on the rehabilitation revolution was put out, one of the MPs said, "Will the Justice Secretary assure me that he will use the consultation period to reflect carefully on how a payment-by-results method will need to be adapted to meet the particular needs of women offenders?", to which he replied, "I can give the hon. Lady that assurance." He went on to say they recognised completely that there were different challenges for adult males, young people and women in prisons. He mentioned the new Minister, the Member for Maidstone and The Weald, Helen Grant, a former member of this Committee and now at the MOJ, who has taken responsibility for women in prisons. Does that provide any sunshine?
Peter Kilgarriff: We have asked to meet Ms Grant but she has said, "Not yet." Obviously, she is new in post and needs to get a handle on her brief. I spoke earlier about PBR. There have been attempts to look at this. We have attempted to look at what we might do with PBR. Was it feasible to do something with women? Because of the small numbers it seems a really difficult thing. There may well be possibilities, though, outside the criminal justice system on some of the issues like child care and children going into care. There may well be some possibility of PBR on particular issues that affect women going into the criminal justice system, but it is difficult to see it replicated on a greater scale.
Q132Steve Brine: Coming back to the Chairman’s question, you said you did not believe there would be a women offender strategy, which the Government had long since promised.
Peter Kilgarriff: They did promise.
Q133Steve Brine: Do you not believe them? I guess in a way it is a "Does anyone care?" question.
Peter Kilgarriff: I do not think we will get a strategy. At the very best, we will get a set of guidelines for practitioners. Even that is difficult now, because for the practitioners, the probation service, it looks as though nearly all the women-Joy’s and Sharon’s clients-will be shifted out of the responsibility of the probation service, if what is in the document comes to pass. It is difficult to know to whom you will be talking. One of the more depressing things we have found in talking to policymakers, civil servants and Ministers is that there is very little leadership from the top at the moment. In talking to officials, they see their role as advising, guiding and helping, and there is no real leadership.
Chair: In relation to women.
Peter Kilgarriff: In relation to women; that is what I mean, yes.
Q134Chair: Your contention would be that leadership is really being exercised by taking forward the payment-by-results programme and is determined mainly by the predominant part of the criminal justice system, which is men.
Peter Kilgarriff: Yes, absolutely.
Jackie Russell: There was an opportunity before Christmas when the Ministry of Justice put out a contract for infrastructure organisations in VCS to develop an action plan by March for how the VCS could be better engaged in PBR. The reason I say it was an opportunity is that Women’s Breakout did express interest and did not succeed in that. There will be various reasons of course, but it was an opportunity. Our expression of interest was to say, "So far, you have designed everything around men and tweaked it for women. This is an opportunity to look at PBR through a women-specific sector, which will have the same issues as other small voluntary sector organisations; so we will have transition and transferability." I think only two of us bid for that and Women’s Breakout did not secure the contract. It was a lost opportunity. Even though we might not have had a strong organisational size behind us, we were very specific and focused into one area, which could have been a microcosm of the sector as well. So I think that was an opportunity lost.
Loraine Gelsthorpe and Carol Hedderman, who are both academics-I know Loraine submitted written evidence to you-produced a paper for the Probation Journal just before Christmas about why PBR did not work for women. You may wish to refer to that as something that may help you.
In response to your question, "Does anyone in government care?", it is very difficult for people to understand what goes on for those who are not in their experience. If you look at government, it is people, isn’t it? Government is people. If you look at the lives of those people, often they are quite narrow; they are not lives that can in any way connect to women offenders and women at risk of offending, with that chaotic sense of their lives and that trauma that they have gone through. Their whole experience is very difficult to connect to. For instance, if you were sitting here looking at services for older people, you could think, "Well, this might be my parent", or, "This is where I’m going to be." We all know older people and can connect to what is being said. Because in this area you cannot, it is really important to hear from those people themselves and those close to them.
Chair: Which we as a Committee do of course in evidence sessions.
Jackie Russell: Yes, exactly, but other than that it means Government do not get it unless they listen.
Q135Chair: I have just one quick factual point. Have any of you found that the private sector is coming to you? If I was in the private sector, I would be heading straight for some of you to find out what had been successful and see if I could engage your services. Is that happening or not?
Joy Doal: No.
Jackie Russell: That has not been the experience of projects to date. Where they have come to the projects, it is often to take from them and then go away and do something without the projects.
Sharon Spurling: In the voluntary sector there is the saying "bid candy".
Nick de Bois: They copied it.
Jackie Russell: Or they put in a bid but we never hear from them again.
Q136Nick de Bois: I am afraid that happens all too often in the commercial world in all sorts of aspects. You have a great skill to offer. Have you approached any of these people for whom you seem to have almost a complete disregard and do not welcome? I refer to the Ciscos and so forth. That is a perfectly reasonable position, but have you ever thought, "Let’s turn this on its head. We can make them better by going to them and showing what we can do to persuade them to work with us"? I am not saying it is desirable, but have you ever thought about that?
Sharon Spurling: We do. Part of Escape-the wider project-was approached by Pertemps People Development Group as part of their NOMS contract. For me, it is a very good relationship with them. They absolutely understood that we were not going to achieve a huge amount in putting people into employment but we were going to achieve something. We were going to achieve a lot of wrap-around support for those chaotic drug and alcohol users who are offending, and we have, but they also respected us. The service fee that we get is 70%, and there is 30% on the PBR for our hard and soft outcomes. We are quite engaged with it as well. We know we are not struggling to try to turn over lots of people quickly. We are not cherry-picking people we know will get outcomes; we are working with everybody, but we are supported by them. I have had some very bad experiences with other prime providers, but I have to say how it is on that particular contract.
Q137Nick de Bois: I always get troubled when ideology becomes a barrier, as opposed to saying, "Well, it is here. Whatever the rules are, let’s make them work for us rather than get too obsessed about the ideology holding us back." We can argue about it for years, but we could look much more at evidence-based solutions, and that is why we have all been depressed but intrigued by what you have had to say today. I would hate to think that one precluded the other.
Peter Kilgarriff: I did not mean to give the impression that I disregard Serco and G4S; I don’t at all. I accept that they are big players, and any feelings or beliefs I might have about the privatisation of punishment are not very relevant. Not very many companies are interested in doing this, but a group of trusts did meet with Sodexo regularly. I used to convene trusts that worked in this field. We met with Sodexo and talked with them about their relationship with voluntary sector agencies delivering services in prisons. There is a benefit in that particular co-operation or collaboration. Some 25% of the women in prison are managed by Sodexo. They run four women’s prisons. If you could get their top brass to agree to a particular service in one prison, it is quite likely to be spread around four prisons, which never happened in the state prison service. You had to go to every prison and battle or whatever. I just wanted to say that I do not disregard them at all; I think they are a big and a growing player.
Chair: Thank you very much. We are very grateful to you for your help this morning.