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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

More details on the new blueprint for probation

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What does the new blueprint for probation say about offender management and resettlement?

A couple of days ago, I posted an overview of HMPPS’ new draft operating blueprint for the new probation system and started working through the detail of the main topics in that document.

Today, I continue that process, sharing what we know about how the next iteration of Transforming Rehabilitation (now apparently known as the probation reform programme) will work in relation to:

  • Offender Management
  • Unpaid Work 
  • Resettlement Model 

Offender management

This section in the blueprint starts with a statement that offender management is at the core of the probation service and sets our five additional key design principles:

  1. To encourage compliance and continuity, the service user will be allocated to their Responsible Officer within five days of sentence to allow a better match to a comprehensive assessment of their risks, needs and responsivity and, where possible, the service user will remain with the same Responsible Officer throughout their order. 
  2. The minimum of face-to-face monthly meetings will remain with telephone contact to support these monthly meetings – not replace them. (However, video calling can count towards the face-to-face monthly minimum, although only to a maximum of 50%.)
  3. Home visits will be mandated where there are child protections / domestic abuse issues and this includes all identified risk levels.
  4. Management oversight will be used more effectively including in Professional Judgement decisions and acceptable absence decisions. 
  5. The Responsible Officer will act as broker, commissioning work related to reducing reoffending or reducing harm.

Offender management will of course be more straightforward now that the National Probation Service alone will prepare court reports and manage offenders on community sentences and offenders pre- and post-release. However, it is clear that offenders will still be allocated on  a risk and need basis with the HMPPS committed to developing a new case allocation criteria and tiering framework.

It appears that the universal requirement for all released prisoners who serve more than one day and less than two years to be subject to post-sentence supervision will remain. However, there is a significant change where PSS will focus solely on rehabilitation and individuals may be seen less often than monthly. Where risk is low, contact may be conducted solely by telephone.

Unpaid work

The provision of Unpaid Work (UPW) by CRCs has been much criticised with some areas not offering enough placements and many orders not completed within the 12 month framework. The blueprint sets out design principles emphasising the need for a wide range of local placements:

  • Quality and locality of placements provided by the provider are a key aspect of the desired overall quality of Unpaid Work service delivery. This placement information and any other relevant information will be made available to the NPS for use by both the Responsible Officers and the Court Officers supplying advice to court for sentencing.
  • To place a service user on to an appropriate placement that meets the needs of that service user and the local community, the NPS needs to provide all of the relevant risk and need information. To enable the NPS to deliver quality assessments and the provider time to source quality placements to match risk and need, the provider will have up to one month to start the service user on their first work placement.
  • Unpaid Work should be delivered to the service user within their local area/community.
  • Travel time will be kept to a minimum so that service users are both working in their local area and spending more of their hours working rather than travelling.
  • Up to 20% of a service user’s hours can be used on Education, Training and Employment (ETE) if a need is identified. This is currently underused so an emphasis is placed on ensuring that those service users that need it undertake ETE provision.
  • A review of each case will take place at the six-month stage of the requirement if it is not yet completed. Both the NPS and the provider will be expected to carry out a review at that stage or before if it becomes clear that the service user is not completing hours at a reasonable rate. This then leads to the completion of hours on a requirement within the 12-month period allowed.

Unpaid Work will be outsourced and delivered by the eleven “Innovation Partners” who will provide both UPW and accredited programmes on a regional basis. You can see the UPW process below.

Resettlement Model

The blueprint section on resettlement sets out a new model within the context of a number of other changes including: the introduction of reception and resettlement prisons; increased use of video conferencing and the roll-out of offender management in custody (OMic) which will see long-term prison sentences managed by prison based offender managers and supported by practical tasks with keyworkers (prison staff on residential wings). The resettlement prisons will also have more core services provided inside them and these will include: employment and education suppliers, enhanced physical and mental health casework, including G.P. registration, family support services and advanced housing and benefit claims support.

There are a number of promising developments promised in the blueprint including:

  • Offenders eligible for HDC may be released ahead of their automatic release date.
  • More use of ROTL for resettlement purposes.
  • An emphasis on achieving through-the-gate (TTG) resettlement by adopting an in-reach approach.
  • Investing in more non-mainstream services post-release, e.g. mentoring in the places users are released to and not just to where the prison is based.

As I have reported earlier, the new model removes TTG as a separate role and function by moving resettlement tasks to the community Responsible Officer role who becomes responsible and accountable for resettlement (as well as rehabilitation, public protection, licence etc) for all offenders before release with the responsibilities continuing after release until end of sentence. 

The community Responsible Officers will be required to undertake OASys assessments at the start of the pre-release stage, to support HDC and ROTL, including a pre-and-post release sentence plan, preparing a tailored resettlement pack, as well as engaging with offenders in prison throughout the pre-release stage. 

Community Responsible Officers will be expected to make prison visits, phone calls, make use of prison video conferencing facilities and have regular and wider engagement with prison senior probation officers and offender managers, prison keyworkers and providers working with an individual in prison. They will also be required to specify clearly the services required for each user to instruct the regional co-ordination function (for more details see my previous post) to provide these services either in prison before release, to start from the prison gate or after release in the community where the individual will live. 

There will also be enhanced support and contact with the community Responsible Officer for a short time after release from prison. This is to ensure individuals have immediately accessed the right services since release and barriers to services are speedily unblocked.

We must wait and see whether the aspirations of the resettlement model are met in reality. Nonetheless, it is heartening to see a more ambitious and strategic model after the failings of the TTG approach under the first version of TR.

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All Probation Posts are sponsored by Unilink

With over 20 years’ experience in the criminal justice sector, Unilink is a world leader in probation and community corrections software applications, as well as prisoner self-service, prisoner/case management and prisoner communications. Unilink’s integrated suite of products provide a complete digital solution enabling efficient running of prisons and probation. Underpinned by biometrics it integrates seamlessly to deliver security, efficiency and value – while being proven to help rehabilitate prisoners.

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