PAPER TO THE OMCP BOARD OF 2 SEPTEMBER 2013 – ANNEX A
Offender Management Change Programme Board
2 September 2013
Case Management Responsibilities in Prisons
Purpose of Item:
Board members only
OFFENDER MANAGEMENT AND ACCOUNTABILITY OF CASES DURING THE CUSTODIAL ELEMENT OF A SENTENCE
1. Confirming where offender management responsibility for offenders sentenced to 12 months or more rests during the core custodial period.
2. Since the introduction of the Rehabilitation Programme (RP), the Through the Gate (TTG) project has designed resettlement services to support offenders during the transitional period between custody and community. There is a particular emphasis on the last 3 months of the sentence, when TTG providers will provide services direct to offenders within resettlement prisons. TTG is also realigning prisons to ensure that 80% of offenders are released from a resettlement prison in their Contract Package Area.
3. Offender management responsibilities to cover the core custodial period (i.e. rehabilitation, rather than resettlement work) for offenders serving 12 months or more are out of scope for TTG. The decision for allocation of OM responsibility during this time falls to the Offender Management Change Programme (OMCP), but must take account of the changes under RP and the Prison Unit Cost Programme (PUCP).
4. The original Offender Management Model introduced two new roles: the Offender Manager (based in the community); and the Offender Supervisor (based in prisons). The Offender Manager was directly responsible for the management of all cases in scope of the Offender Management Model, meaning they were tasked with driving the sentence, including completion of all assessment and sentence planning activity. In these cases, the Offender Supervisor (OS) was tasked with the day to day delivery of the sentence plan, in liaison with the Offender Manager at key stages. The “in-scope” cases covered all offenders serving 12 months or more who were assessed through OASys as High or Very High Risk of Harm; all those sentenced to Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP); and all those identified as Prolific and Priority Offenders (PPOs).
5. The introduction of the Manage the Custodial Sentence (MTCS) Service Specification (transitional version) in October 2012 brought into scope of Offender Management all other offenders sentenced to 12 months or more. The newly added offenders were those assessed at Low or Medium Risk of Serious Harm (ROSH). During the custodial period these offenders were allocated to the direct management responsibility of the OS, rather than being managed by an Offender Manager (OM) in the community. The OS was, therefore, responsible for assessment and sentence planning for these cases.
6. As a result, under the transitional MTCS Service Specification, some cases are managed by the prison and others by the OM in the community, during the core custodial period.
7. Since the first implementation of offender management for custodial cases in November 2006, it has proved difficult to deliver the original vision of the OM model. In particular, OMs based in the community have not consistently been able to “drive” the sentence during custody. There have been a number of reasons for this, including time constraints and geography restricting OMs from visiting the relevant prisons. Whilst video conferencing and teleconferencing allow some communication, these do not allow OMs to build effective relationships and therefore authority with their offenders. In addition, OMs, with some exceptions, have found it difficult to lead and direct activity from outside the prison environment. Finally, OMs have often had to prioritise other cases - e.g. those already on licence, or subject to an imminent Parole Review. In practice, the majority of cases are “driven” by the OS instead, albeit with key input from the OM at review stages.
8. A number of reports, including joint OM inspections by HM Inspectorates of Prisons and Probation, have highlighted these difficulties, notwithstanding some examples of good practice.
(Annex A provides an outline of some of the concerns raised in inspections and other reports in relation to the existing Offender Management approach to cases whilst in custody.)
9. As a result of the persistent difficulties, before the TRP was introduced, it was the intention of the OMCP to transfer management responsibility for all cases to the OS whilst they were in custody, in line with the Specifications, Benchmarking and Costing (SBC) teams’ original plans.
10. Following the changes introduced by the TRP, it is a good time to consider whether this intention should still be pursued. We envisage two broad options:
i) Mirror the TRP split of cases with regards to OM in custody: retained National Probation Service (NPS) cases could be managed by the community-based probation OM, whilst the contracted out cases could be managed by the prison-based OS during the custodial period.
The benefits of this model include retaining continuity for NPS-managed cases; and employing the expertise of community-based probation officers for MAPPA/high-risk cases. However, the risks of this model are that for retained cases, all the difficulties described above associated with managing a case from the community would persist.
ii) Transfer responsibility for all custodial cases to prison-based staff. Under this arrangement, assessments and sentence plans would be completed by the custody-based OS in all cases. However, for NPS retained cases, a seconded probation officer in the prison would have responsibility for driving and overseeing the case, working with the OS.* It is envisaged that a community-based OM would still be designated for NPS-retained cases. However, demands on these officers would reduce: they would no longer bear formal responsibility to drive the case, but they would still be advised of progress and given the opportunity to contribute to the case at key stages, including sentence planning reviews. Further, at the 6 months pre-release stage, or at commencement of any parole process, responsibility for the case, including assessment, would transfer from custody to the community.**
The benefits of this approach would be that the prison-based staff would be given formal responsibility to drive the sentence for all cases (which has often become the default position in any case). Responsibility for the offender management of contracted out cases would therefore sit with Band 4 OS's; whilst the responsibility for NPS-retained cases would sit with seconded probation officers in the relevant prison, who then would be able to pro-actively drive the sentence plan delivery and build up a direct relationship with the offender, working with the OS.
However, there would also be some risks to this model: some continuity across the length of the sentence could be lost, including through prison transfers. In addition, OS's in prisons do not have the full range of OM skills, training or experience that probation officers do and they are sometimes expected to perform other functions within the prison. Further, the PUC benchmarking has, in some cases, reduced the overall resource in custody, whilst Fair and Sustainable has also impacted on the numbers of experienced prison-based OS's in post, putting strain on the system. The success of the model would therefore depend heavily on the quality and experience of the seconded probation officer for NPS-retained cases, as well as strong support to OS’s and their managers to build the skills and experience to maintain high standards of OM for all cases.
11. The Offender Assessment and Management Section (OAMS) considers that some of the risks of Option 2) can be mitigated. OAMS is working with the Business Development Group on the design and implementation of the new seconded probation role for prisons, referred to above. An initial design for the seconded probation role has been agreed at ISAB and is due for consultation shortly with prison Governors, Probation Trusts, and other key stakeholders.
12. OAMS will also focus on developing OSs’ abilities, through case reviews and advice, improved training and support networks such as the OMU Managers’ Forum.
On balance, it is recommended that the original intention to transfer OM responsibility to prisons should be pursued, in parallel with the development of the new probation role in custody, which will need to be adequately resourced. Resource risks and loss of experience around OM in custody following the PUC and Fair and Sustainable should continue to be monitored closely.
(A summary table of the two options with benefits and risks is at Annex B.)
13. This paper seeks the Boards views on the proposal to:
- Transfer management responsibility for all cases to the prison during the custodial period;
- Retain a seconded probation oversight for the retained NPS cases, to ‘drive’ the sentence, working with the OS, until the point of formal handover to the community Offender Manager six months pre-release;
- Confirm the principle that all NPS retained cases will still have a named community Offender Manager from the start of sentence, and be able to contribute to sentence planning meetings and other key events as necessary.
* There would remain a question of whether the community Offender Manager should still complete an initial assessment and sentence plan for all Extended Determinate and Life sentence cases, as now.
** Should an offender get a negative decision following a parole hearing, the case would return to the prison for assessment and management purposes, until the next parole review process commenced.