Last of the automatic pilots: Learning from the HMP Doncaster re-offending payment by results scheme

The Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, made it very clear last week in his evidence to the House of Commons Justice Committee that he would be rolling out payment by results without waiting to learn from the existing MoJ pilot schemes.

When asked whether, in the light of the work programme results announced the day before, it was not risky to pursue a PbR approach without more information he replied:

“In government if you’re going to be a reformer, you have to bite the bullet and reform.”

You can see the actual footage below.


All the more reason, then to maximise the learning from the re-offending pilots which have not been suspended.

Last week the MoJ published the initial evaluation of the HMP Doncaster PbR re-offending pilot undertaken by GVA.

The Doncaster scheme

HMP Doncaster is a privately operated Category B prison, managed by Serco.

In July 2011, Serco’s contract for running the prison was due to expire and the MoJ commenced a procurement process to re-let the contract.

Serco’s bid  included an “Alliance” with two voluntary sector organisations Catch 22 and Turning Point to deliver a new model of offender management and resettlement intended to reduce re-offending rates on release.

They were awarded the contract to continue running HMP Doncaster on a PbR model with ten per cent of the prison’s annual revenue dependent on a 5% reduction in re-offending rates.

The PbR pilot runs over four years from October 2011 and will cover four cohorts of offenders.

Each cohort will be made up of all sentenced offenders discharged within a 12 month period, with the following exclusions:

  • Foreign national prisoners who will be deported or transferred to an Immigration Removal Centre on release from Doncaster.
  • Offenders sentenced to time already served on remand.
  • Offenders serving sentences for breach of court orders.

The report found that between the start of the pilot on 1 October 2011 and 30 June 2012, there were 1,178 eligible participants at HMP Doncaster.

The main development stimulated by the PbR pilot was the addition of community resettlement support for offenders post-release through the provision of community-based case managers.

The introduction of an end-to-end case management system, including delivery in the community, was intended to reduce inconsistency, improve engagement of offenders and support reductions in reoffending.

[For another example of end-to-end initiative see Leicestershire’s Quality of Life project.]

Key findings

VGA found that 58% of offenders discharged during the research period had engaged with the community management service.

It is too soon to have any indications of whether the scheme has been successful in reducing re-offending.

However, there are a number of key, useful findings:

  • It was soon realised that providing a universal service was inefficient, the service is now focused on those serving sentences between eight weeks and 12 months (this is a notable difference from the similar ONE project at HMP  Peterborough – also a PbR pilot – where the average length of stay for participants was just seven weeks).
  • A key strength of the pilot is the nature of the arrangement between Serco and Catch 22 which means that Catch 22 will share in the reward-related payment if the re-conviction target is achieved, but are not liable for financial loss if the target is missed.
  • The lack of  a lead-in period had a negative effect and caused significant delay in developing data systems which are critical to measuring outcomes on which reward payments are based.
  • There was also considerable frustration on the part of Serco that outcomes were going to be measured on a binary, rather than frequency basis.
  • Finally there was concern that there was some duplication in case management between the prison- and community-based staff.


For a series of other materials on PbR initiatives, check out my free PbR resource pack which is updated weekly.



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