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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

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

Who is going to lead the rehabilitation revolution?

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I just got back from an interesting roundtable discussion on payment by results and re-offending convened by IPPR. I cam away with two main thoughts. Is there really no alternative to the MoJ's cumbersome cohort approach to calculating PbR? And who is going to provide on the ground leadership for the rehabilitation revolution in a centrally commissioned model with a much reduced probation service?

Payment by results and re-offending

I just got back from an interesting roundtable discussion on payment by results and re-offending convened by IPPR.

It was a fruitful conversation stimulated by contributions from the different justice PbR pilots –the Peterborough ONE project and the justice reinvestment pilots represented by commissioners from Lewisham, Southwark & Greater Manchester.

I came away with two main thoughts.

Getting the focus on prolific offenders

Getting the PbR contracts right so that they reward organisations who are most successful with the most prolific offenders is going to be tricky.

The current MoJ plan is to make outcome payments on the basis of whether individual offenders re-offend (the binary measure) and a reduction in the total number of offences (frequency).

The Lewisham Reinvestment pilot pays its provider on a sliding scale based on individual OGRS (Offender Group Reconviction Scale) scores which provides a straightforward means of making larger payments for heavier offenders. OGRS criteria (which relate to the offence and an offender’s previous convictions) are easy to access from official sources and can be provided by commissioners .

This seems to be to be an elegant solution to the central challenge of having a simple, relatively inexpensive outcome measurement system which prevents gaming of the system.

Unfortunately, the MoJ says it must continue with its more complicated and expensive (still to be fully worked out) cohort approach because it can’t be perceived to be paying for deadweight (i.e. for offenders who would have stopped re-offending anyway).

In reality an individually-based scheme would be no more expensive (as in both cases payment tariffs are calculated to fit the budget).

Leadership

The discussion was an encouraging one because both the reinvestment projects and the ONE Project felt that they had been able to make real progress in tackling the long-standing difficulty of providing a joined up response to repeat offending.

However, it was clear that all the pilots had required extensive commitment and leadership typically provided by local commissioners and/or the probation service.

Commissioners had intervened to tackle a wide range of system blockages such as negotiating access to keys in prison or resolving sharing data problems.

Probation Trusts had enabled new initiatives to build on Integrated Offender Management schemes and multi-agency partnerships which they had developed over many years.

However, the current MoJ model for Transforming Rehabilitation involves central commissioning and outsourcing 70% of the probation service’s work – it struck me that this configuration results in a model with no obvious leaders.

Given the scale of the challenge – improving reoffending rates with more offenders for less money – this could prove to be a serious problem.

A critical component of all successful transformation projects is effective leadership.

Who, do you think, could lead the rehabilitation revolution in your local area?

 

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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.

3 Responses

  1. As one of the originators of Lewisham’s OGRS based approach to PbR I think the approach continues to have the huge merit of resolving the cherry-picking risk inherent in most PbR approaches. However it effectively is a weighted binary measure with some of the merits and problems of other types of binary measure

    The MoJ objection is an interesting one but I can’t say I fully understand it; how is the dead-weight payment inherent in this approach any different from the fixed contract amounts paid in any PbR contract? One solution that was briefly considered in Lewisham was basing payments on the difference between the predicted binary offending rate of the cohort and the actual binary offending rate (ie if 40% of offenders in the cohort were predicted to offend but only 30% did so the reward payment was based on the 10% difference). This was rejected as too complex to commission against which still feels the right decision in some ways (although of course it is a model of simplicity compared to the MoJ Transforming Rehabilitation PbR mechanim!)

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