Written evidence from ARCC/Durham Tees Valley Community Rehabilitation Company (TRH0051)
DTV CRC – Context and Overview:
Durham Tees Valley CRC is owned by ARCC – Achieving Real Change in Communities – which is a consortia of nine local private, public and third sector organisations. ARCC is the only arrangement of its kind within the CRC parent ownership group and is unique in its not for profit stance, whereby should any monies be gained via the current contract with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), it will be reinvested in front line services to improve the effectiveness of such services. ARCC comprises three of our local authorities, a mental health Trust, three charities dealing with families, peer mentors and young people, a CRC staff mutual (who wrote the operational delivery model) and a registered housing provider. Between them, they cover many of the core offending pathways which are widely known to contribute towards a person’s ability to shake off their offending lifestyle – such as accommodation, employability, mental health – and their delivery as our supply chain for example within our Through the Gate team, has resulted in schemes whereby prison leavers receive mental health support via a team of criminal justice liaison workers; or where homeless prisoners are prioritised by local authorities in hot spot areas; or partnering with a community bank enables prisoners to save from their prison wages and have an established bank account upon release.
DTV CRC has established a very positive reputation within the CRC landscape and we believe we have enacted the contracts in the way they were intended originally. There is little doubt however, that the uncertainty over available income, the changes in volume and mix of offenders and the length of time it has taken to resolve this situation (contract year four of seven) with the Ministry has meant that energy and resource has had to be deployed on activities other than reducing reoffending and innovation.
JSC Questions - Government measures
JSC Questions - Government measures
1. To what extent do the steps taken by the Government address the issues facing probation services?
a) What contractual, financial and administrative changes did the Government introduce for CRCs in July 2017 as a result of their internal review of Transforming Rehabilitation?
[Redacted as contains commercially confidential information]
What has been the effect of these changes on the delivery of probation services?
The review by the MoJ led to a review of the Weighted Annual Volume (WAV) bandings in light of the information about our fixed costs and the contractual changes implemented earlier this year, now mean that DTV CRC is paid at a WAV band which enables us to retain manageable caseloads (Probation Officers hold on average forty five cases and Probation Service Officers sixty five cases), ensure safe service delivery with public protection intact and every offender is seen face to face. The security of payment going forward for the remainder of the contract also gives us the stability and much needed time to focus upon improving our service delivery and the ability to invest in areas where we need to consider doing things differently in an attempt to further reduce reoffending e.g. the offenders who remain as ‘high impact’ within the frequency cohort of our payment by results cohorts.
(b) Are strengthening inspection standards and creating joint performance measures (between probation services and prisons) the best ways of improving performance?
It depends? There needs to be a real balance between the focus upon custody and community and our experience to date with anything concerning the prison service, is that ‘it’ gets priority and therefore the resources. Undoubtedly shared outcome measures around reducing reoffending amongst all criminal justice services seem sensible, but any changes would be difficult in the current complex system. The centrally driven management of the prison service (and NPS) does not fit with local delivery and local needs of either the establishment or locality. Geographical skills gaps for example, are not served by nationally commissioned prison service contracts with education providers who are not familiar with local communities or businesses. Shared measures between the CRC and NPS may lead to more joint working around smooth process enactment, but there would also need to be a mechanism by which any appropriate sanctions for poor performance is shared. Currently there is no incentive for the NPS/Prison to do things differently, other than local will to work together. In the North East the CRC, NPS and Reform Prisons Executive Director have signed a statement of intent around joint working towards better rehabilitative outcomes, but this initiative is locally driven by the three system leaders and sits out with of contractual arrangements. Consideration should be given to measures which incentivise rather than penalise, and any financial weightings attached, should accurately reflect the costs of delivery.
In terms of strengthened inspection standards, this too depends on the focus – any changes to inspection regimes in the current climate need to reflect the nature of the CRC contracts, and to understand exactly what it is we have been contracted to deliver. DTV CRC’s approach has been to do the ‘right thing’ professionally, for example, we have over invested in our Through the Gate services (vis a vis FFS income received for this service) as we believe this is still an area where offenders do not receive sufficient support. The current contract allows an organisation to deliver a ‘minimum’ service if it so chooses. However, national changes to contracts and national specifications do not take account of local prison need, local community resource available, or provision available from other organisations such as health, community substance misuse support or third sector agencies. Locally defined cocommissioning of services would ensure resources are targeted and local agencies accountable to those who understand the environment.
Inspection and Audit since the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms has become complex, is usually enacted by those who do not understand CRC operating models and who remain wedded to ‘old style’ probation practice. Whilst CRC’s have been criticised for a lack of innovation, notwithstanding the impact of the financial uncertainty on our ability to invest in service development, there remains a reluctance to ‘let go’ of previous practice methodology. With a desire to innovate comes a natural risk that it may go wrong. Current audit and inspection criteria do not allow for such risks, which clearly need to be appropriately managed, but the danger with any further centralised standards means this further reduces the CRC’s ability to try out new things.
(c) What should be the Government's priorities to improve work between departments on the delivery of services needed for effective rehabilitation?
Breaking down departmental silo working – for example, the imposition of Universal Credit will undoubtedly reduce the benefits of the Through the Gate service aims, if not render them impossible.
Health, are notoriously difficult to engage. Information sharing protocols, or rather the lack of, mean that health professionals get caught up in not being able to share information about offenders, when it is exactly this information which may help us join services more effectively.
Government drivers with local businesses - through the chambers of commerce for example, could help with a more volume focussed solution to offender employment opportunities. Engaging one or two local employers who have a social conscious is fine, but it does not give us a volume solution in areas of high unemployment / social deprivation.
Build upon the ideas around local prison Governor empowerment – and mean it!
Enable delivery via local partnership arrangements where responses can be tailored and agencies held to account by those who understand the environment.
2. What impact have the reforms had on: i) sentencing behaviour, ii) recalls to prison, and iii) serious further offences?
In our area we have worked hard to retain strong relationships with the local NPS and Courts. We have agreed the placing of a CRC member of staff in our busiest Magistrates Courts, who helps with ensuring information about current CRC offenders can be fed in to any reports (written or verbal) to ensure offenders are getting the most appropriate interventions. This was cited as good practice in the recent HMIP thematic report. Overall sentencers have struggled to understand the split between the CRC and NPS and confusion remains over the Rehabilitation Activity Requirement (RAR). We have retained our numbers of accredited programmes in one half of our area, but they have dropped off significantly in the other, with no obvious apparent explanation. One frustration from a CRC perspective is that we cannot access any Court concordance data, or sentencing trend data without needing to ask the MoJ/NPS. This makes it difficult to tailor inputs to sentencers at a local level.
Our recall rates and SFO numbers have not changed in comparison to pre TR days.
3. How effective have Government measures been in addressing issues arising from the division of responsibility between the NPS and CRCs in the delivery of probation services?
The separation of probation delivery has undoubtedly made some processes more complex and caused a level of confusion and misunderstanding amongst wider stakeholders such as Courts/sentencers and Community Sentence Partnerships. Initially CRC’s were required to operate via the NPS for any court related process e.g. advice re sentencing, breach, revocation and so on. As mentioned above, in the DTV area we have secured agreement with the NPS Director for the placing of a CRC staff member within the two busiest magistrates courts, to aid with the flow of information around available interventions or where cases have been previously known to the CRC, in an attempt to ensure individuals receive the most appropriate sentence. This is local practice however which is driven by pragmatic, positive local relationships rather than any national policy.
The senior system leaders (all CRC CEO’s, all NPS Directors and senior HMPPS officials) meet on a quarterly basis to discuss system interface issues and try to resolve areas of national difficulty – e.g. sentencing trends, decreasing use of accredited programmes, sentencer confidence. These meetings are bolstered by local contractual meetings led by the Contract Management Teams called ‘system integration meetings’ where the more local interface nuances are discussed.
In our view, the psychological impact of the split between NPS and CRC staff nationally has been underestimated but the Ministry are now trying to close this gap via the above meeting structure. The creation of HMPPS and separation of the policy and operations has yet to impact in any real sense. There has been considerable ill feeling and criticism as to the NPS being part of NOMS as was, and now HMPPS, and not treated as a provider of services within the system, as CRC’s are. There has been a lack of transparency around holding the NPS to account or as to what the incentives / sanctions are for NPS performance. For example – the poor level of detail coming from Court with an offender allocated to the CRC has been cited in many HMIP reports as inadequate and unhelpful, as CRC’s are then unable to make a thorough assessment of the individual.
4. What else should the Government do to address the issues facing probation services?
4. What else should the Government do to address the issues facing probation services?
These reforms were large scale and implemented at a pace without any trialling or piloting of the proposed changes. There is a lot to be learnt from the way these reforms were enacted, how services were split, how CRC contracts have been managed. Hopefully, within HMPPS somebody is looking at the learning and feeding this in to whatever the next iteration of contracts may look like.
Stop further monies being spent on bureaucratic processes and invest in outcomes instead. For example the contractual change notice process, the latest being changes to the collection of data around whether somebody has ‘suitable and appropriate’ accommodation upon release from prison.
The change notice process gives CRC’s the opportunity to submit an impact assessment as to the additional costs the suggested changes to the recording process will incur. Clearly, whilst additional work needs to be funded, in our view, this money would be better spent on incentivising CRC’s to trial new projects/pilots/ways of joint working, rather than compensating us for what are usually administrative tasks. This latest process will only give the Authority a snap shot of data for people being released in to accommodation, but the process is about the offender providing the evidence of their accommodation and goes no further to see if that person is still in accommodation at a later date. This change also allows for ‘text’ evidence to be submitted i.e. an offender says they are residing with an aunt, s/he shows the responsible officer a text from said aunt which states they are happy for them to reside with them. There is no way of the RO knowing however, that the text is bona fide or otherwise. This is one example where scrutiny and bureaucracy take precedence over channelling money in to outcomes and real results.
5. How can the Through-the-Gate provision be improved so that prisoners get the right help before their release from prison and afterwards?
At DTV CRC we are working beyond the current contractual specification around TTG services. Where we work with an individual who has a sentence longer than twelve weeks, we continue to work with them for the duration of the sentence following initial screening, and not just within the twelve week stage prior to release which is the contractual requirement. Our TTG team comprises CRC probation officers (PO) and probation service officers (PSO), alongside two third sector partner providers who provide the wrap around services against the TTG pathways. These third sector organisations are fully embedded in our TTG team and were praised by HMIP in the most recent TTG thematic Inspection in June 2017;
‘We found only two cases where Through the Gate services had identified and secured accommodation for prisoners. Both of these individuals were released from HMP Holme House, where Durham Tees Valley CRC had worked with housing associations in their supply chain to improve access’.
We use PO and PSO’s in this team to ensure a professional risk assessment is carried out, as the quality of the Basis Custody Screening Tool (BCST) is often in adequate due to the nature of the questions (specified) and the lack of time prison staff have to complete section one.
Having trained probation staff in this team was also praised by HMIP in the TTG Inspection report –
‘… experienced staff already working for DTV CRC had been moved into the prisons to deliver resettlement services. We thought this brought advantages, including an understanding of the need to be persistent with cases where the prisoner was difficult to engage…’
DTV CRC’s model for TTG includes what we call a ‘departure lounge’ which is a facility we contract with another third sector provider, to provide us with a location to see prisoners released from custody within the visitor centre, which is immediately outside the prison gate. Our departure lounges are staffed by the same staff from the TTG team so are already familiar faces to the prisoner. They also provide the facility for family members to attend and we can reiterate licence conditions etc. to those people closest to the prisoner. Again this practice was highlighted as good practice by HMIP in the same report -
‘DTV CRC had set up a ‘departure lounge’ just outside the prison gates, where prisoners being released to the local CRC had their first appointment and could receive a range of practical support’
Investment in the TTG service within DTV falls far below the income received via Fee for Service for these services. In pure business terms, without overall resolution to the financial situation created by the decreasing offender volumes and WAV, DTV would not be able to continue to fund this level of service, despite it being deemed best practice by a range of NOMS/HMPPS officials. There are current negotiations on going with the Ministry around a revised TTG contractual specification as they have recognised that for providers to fund this work fully, there needs to be a revision in the financial weighting of the work overall. We wait to see what comes from these negotiations.
6. What can be done to increase voluntary sector involvement in the delivery of probation services?
There is a need to manage expectations around what this sector can deliver and how easy they are to engage or otherwise as engaging this sector is not as easy as it gets portrayed. Small third sector organisations can be insular, locally competitive, locally constrained and put off by the level of contractual bureaucracy involved in working with the CRC. Some are often reluctant to engage in activity which can be enforceable from a probation point of view. That said, we have fully engaged with two core third sector partners for our TTG services – one a registered housing provider and one a peer mentor / volunteer support specialist. We also work with NEPACS who deal with prisoner families and wider prisoner support issues.
We are currently working with our PCC and Local Criminal Justice Board to identify the level of provision locally, and matching these to service delivery gaps in an effort to join up services and avoid duplication.
The future of probation services
7. When should there be a review of the future of the Transforming Rehabilitation model and the long-term plan for delivering probation services?
The current CRC contracts run until 2021/22. The first round of Payment by Results figures, all be it positive in reducing the number of offenders in the system overall, have produced disappointing results against the frequency measure. There are many and varied reasons as to why this may be the case, but one obvious one is that this baseline cohort was formed in 2015 when CRC’s were nowhere near having implemented their new operating models. Giving sufficient time for the next full iteration of figures to come to fruition would be a more realistic indicator of the impact of the reforms.