We need your support to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can continue to hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
"This Government are committed to an ambitious programme of social reform, even at a time of financial constraints. Major changes have already been delivered in welfare and education to tackle the challenge of endemic welfare dependence and educational underperformance, particularly in deprived areas. In the coalition agreement, the Government also promised to introduce a 'rehabilitation revolution' to tackle the unacceptable cycle of reoffending, and today I am publishing a consultation paper entitled Transforming Rehabilitation: a revolution in the way we manage offenders. We need a tough but intelligent criminal justice system that both punishes people properly when they break the law and also supports them to get their lives back on track so that they do not commit crime again in the future.
Despite significant increases in government spending on offender management during the past decade, reoffending remains consistently and unacceptably high. In 2010 nearly half of prisoners were reconvicted within a year of release. This rate is even higher for short-sentenced prisoners, the great majority of whom currently receive little or no support.
Failing to divert offenders away from crime has a wide impact. The Ministry of Justice alone spent more than £4 billion on prisons and offender management in 2011-12 and the wider cost of this failure is considerable. The National Audit Office estimated that the economic cost of reoffending by recent ex-prisoners was as much as £13 billion in 2007-8. I am clear that we cannot continue as before. In difficult economic times, delivering real reform requires a dramatically different approach. We cannot afford not to do this.
My proposals seek a new emphasis on life management and mentoring support for offenders in order to address the problems that lead them to turn to crime again and again. For the first time, all offenders, including those serving less than 12 months, will be subject to mandatory supervision and tailored rehabilitation on release from prison. These offenders have some of the highest reoffending rates but currently no statutory provision after the halfway point of their sentence. I want to ensure that persistent offenders do not walk out of the prison gates with £46 in their pockets and little or nothing else.
My vision is very simple. When someone leaves prison, I want them already to have a mentor in place. I want them to be met at the prison gate, have a place to live sorted out and to have a package of support set up, be it training or drug treatment or an employability course. I also want them to have someone they can turn to as a wise friend as they try to turn their lives around.
I intend to open up the market for probation services so that we can combine the expertise that exists within the public sector probation service with the innovation and dynamism of private and voluntary providers. These radical reforms are underpinned by the principles of the big society. Enabling voluntary sector organisations fully to participate in transforming rehabilitation, harnessing their expertise and making the most of existing local links will be vital to delivering the reoffending reductions we need to see.
Providers will be commissioned to deliver community orders and licence requirements for the majority of offenders and will be paid by results to reduce reoffending. They will be expected to tackle the causes of reoffending and help offenders to turn their lives around. And through the introduction of payment by results, providers from all sectors will have a clear incentive to rehabilitate offenders. We will pay in full only for services that successfully reduce reoffending.
Services will be commissioned nationally and delivered across broader geographical areas. I am committed that the new system will continue to make best use of local expertise and to integrate into existing local structures. Potential providers will have to be clear as to how they would sustain local partnerships in contracts and commissioning which will be informed by local intelligence.
Extending rehabilitation to more offenders will introduce new costs to the system and I believe that these can be balanced by drawing more providers into the system. Through increased use of competition we can generate efficiency savings and drive down unit costs across the system, allowing our funding to go further.
The public sector probation service does an important job in protecting the public and the Government are very clear about the value and expertise it brings. We want to use that expertise as we transform our approach to rehabilitation. There will be a continuing critical role for the public sector, which will include advising the courts and assessing the risk an offender poses to the public. Offenders who pose the highest risk of serious harm to the public will continue to be managed directly by the public sector and the public sector will retain ultimate responsibility for public protection.
These proposals will make a significant change to the system, delivering the Government's commitment to real reform. They will fulfil the coalition commitment to introduce a 'rehabilitation revolution' and will realise our ambition to apply payment by results across offender rehabilitation services by the end of 2015.
Transforming rehabilitation will help to ensure that all those sentenced to prison or community sentences are properly punished while being supported to turn their backs on crime for good, meaning lower crime, fewer victims and safer communities. I commend this Statement to the House".
I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in the other place by the Secretary of State and offer him my congratulations that he has not apparently joined the current exodus from the government Front Bench. Clearly, he does not yet feel in need of rehabilitation outside this House.
I am also grateful for having had prior sight of the Statement repeated by the Minister, which is more than the courtesy that was extended to my colleague, the shadow Minister of Justice in the House of Commons.
The Government have issued a consultation document but today appear to have made clear their chosen method of achieving what I am sure we would all agree is an important objective: namely, further reductions in the rate of reoffending. The crime rate fell throughout the period of office of the previous Government, which suggests, first, that that Government were effective in addressing the incidence of crime; and that the agencies involved, including the probation service, were doing a good job. The probation service is staffed by committed professionals who help to keep our communities safe. This was recognised by the fact that, in 2011, it was awarded the British Quality Foundation gold medal for excellence and in that year the performance of every single probation trust was rated by the Government as either good or exceptional.
Can the Minister clear up one point? It has been suggested to me that, earlier today, the Secretary of State made the statement that he wanted to professionalise the probation service. On the face of it, that would seem an extraordinary thing to say and I would be very grateful if, when he comes to respond, the Minister could confirm that the Secretary of State made no such statement.
The Minister is a great admirer of the probation service. On
"I am a lifelong admirer of the probation service and am in awe of the responsibilities that our probation officers take on. I cannot imagine that any future structure would not draw on the experience and ethos that makes it such an excellent service". -[Hansard, 30/10/12; col. 549.]
In the light of the Minister's statement just over two and a half months ago that the probation service is excellent and that he is in awe of the responsibilities that probation officers take on, do the Government's intentions involve taking any work currently undertaken by probation officers and probation support officers away from them? Or do the Government's proposals represent an extension of rehabilitation work involving the private and voluntary sectors which will not lead to any noticeable reduction in the number of probation officers and probation support officers?
For some time now, the probation service has been working in partnership with the private sector and voluntary groups. There is already excellent work taking place in partnership around the country. Bringing in outside experience and innovation and working together in partnership to reduce reoffending is not something new. However, to what extent do the Government intend that true partnership continues? To what extent do they envisage the wholesale transfer of key areas of probation service work to the private and voluntary sectors-in other words, straight outsourcing? If the latter is the case, is it the Government's view that the private and voluntary sectors are more effective and efficient than the probation service-which the Minister so rightly admires and respects-or do the Government believe that it can be done more cheaply outside the probation service, perhaps because those involved in the rehabilitation work will be paid less?
It was with a view to looking for new ways to address the issue of reoffending that the previous Government began a pilot of a payment-by-results model in Peterborough. This was presumably why the previous Secretary of State launched two payment-by-results pilots in probation trusts. It is, of course, right to test properly and try out fundamentally new ways of working, because there is no history in criminal justice of payment by results. Interestingly, however, the Secretary of State chose to cancel the two payment-by-results pilots set up by his predecessor. Can the Minister tell us why? To the best of my knowledge, no proper evaluation has been carried out of the success, or otherwise, of those two pilots. Indeed, no proper evaluation has yet been carried out of the Peterborough pilot. What is the hard, evaluated, published evidence on which the Government are basing their intentions?
The current Secretary of State has form when it comes to introducing payment-by-results schemes that have not been properly tested and evaluated. He clearly prefers gut instinct or ideology over hard evidence. The current Secretary of State was responsible for the Work Programme, which involves payment by results. Payment by results is precisely what we are seeing: a lot of payment and few results. According to the National Audit Office, which presumably has a fair idea of what it is talking about, of the 800,000 people who started the Work Programme, only 3.5% were still in work after six months and not a single provider had hit their target. Indeed, there seems to have been a lot of subcontracting going on in the Work Programme which makes it much more difficult to identify where the responsibility lies for failing to perform. This is a factor that needs to be looked at when assessing the Government's intentions for payment by results in our criminal justice system. It is also no secret that increasing numbers of smaller companies are walking away from involvement in the Work Programme, and that factor ought also to be borne in mind when considering the Government's proposals on probation and rehabilitation and an intention to have greater involvement of smaller organisations including those in the voluntary sector. Where will accountability lie under the Government's stated intentions, particularly in a situation where there may be considerable subcontracting?
The Secretary of State is proposing that only low and medium-risk offenders will be dealt with by private companies. Can the Minister confirm that medium-risk offenders include those who have committed domestic violence and burglary? Why is it that if the Secretary of State has confidence in probation retaining supervision of high-risk offenders, he does not have confidence in it to supervise low and medium-risk offenders? Is it, in reality, all about reducing costs rather than rehabilitation and further reducing reoffending?
Given that one in four offenders' risk level fluctuates during their term on licence, is the Minister satisfied that the payment-by-results model will be able to take that into account? In that regard, how does he propose that the police and other public bodes share with the private sector their sensitive information about offenders with whom they have dealings?
The Secretary of State is seeking to increase the level and extent of supervisions and rehabilitation of offenders, and no one would disagree with that as an objective. However, is this all to be done within existing budgeted and planned levels of resources, not least financial resources? Or is it the intention at some later date to provide an increase in resources? If it is the intention that there will be no extra resources, what will happen if existing resources prove to be insufficient to achieve the Government's intentions?
Finally, if the Government move significant chunks of rehabilitation work and reoffending reduction work currently carried out by the public sector probation service into the private and voluntary sector, will that work continue to be subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, or will the changes that the Government clearly intend to make mean, as far as this part of the criminal justice system is concerned, that we will be moving to a more secretive and less transparent operation, with less information being available in the public domain? Can the Minister give a cast-iron guarantee that in the Government's proposals there will be no reduction in the areas or extent of activity covered by the Freedom of Information Act?
We support the objective of seeking further to reduce reoffending. However, the devil is in the detail and the means. We will look carefully at the consultation document and hope that it provides reassurances that have been sadly missing from the Secretary of State's Statement.
My Lords, first, I thank the noble Lord for those closing remarks of welcome for the initiative. As he quite rightly said, the devil will be in the detail and it is quite right that now and subsequently the House and the public will probe and test these proposals.
The word "professionalise" was in no way a pejorative statement by my right honourable friend-quite the contrary. I think I have mentioned before in the House that I would like the probation service and its work to be recognised as a profession, perhaps ultimately by a chartered institute of probation. It was in that context that the Secretary of State was talking about a professionalised service-the recognition of probation work as a proper profession, which indeed it is.
I took on board points that should be recognised: we are building on existing patterns of partnership that were first established by the previous Government, both in the legislation that we are using-the 2007 Act-and the various pilots that they initiated in their closing years. This question of pilots is very difficult. On my first day in office in 2010, I was told about the Peterborough and Doncaster pilots. Two years later, whenever one was asked about progress in these areas, one would say: "Well, we are still piloting". There is a danger in policy development that you pilot for ever. You learn lessons as they go along, but at some time there is a need for Ministers to take a decision and develop a policy, and that is what we are doing here.
There is always a kind of elephant trap in any programme of reform. If you claim that there is a need for reform, are you being condemnatory about those who are carrying out the existing policy? The answer is no, as the noble Lord said, and I have been on record in this House about my admiration for the probation service as it is and the work that it does. My noble friend has proposed changes that we believe will bring a combination of greater efficiency and effectiveness and new ideas into the treatment of offenders. That is the thrust of the policy. Whether offenders who are taken under the wing of private and voluntary sector providers have committed "burglary and domestic violence" or something else, what is certain is that whoever comes within that assessment, their risk assessment will have been carefully carried out by professionals before they move into that sector. That risk assessment will be part of the ongoing role of the professional probation service and will be taken into account when it is decided whether a person is suitable for rehabilitation work that involves payment by results.
The noble Lord also asked whether existing resources would be used. The answer is yes; this is the plan, this is the whole point. As I pointed out, we are spending £4 billion-no small amount-per year on keeping people in prison and in keeping people supervised by probation. What the document suggests-and we hope that the debate that it initiates will develop this-that the £4 billion will be spent a lot more effectively than at the moment. We can do so more effectively within prisons and more effectively outside prisons.
One of the things that the Secretary of State was very much influenced by was his work at the DWP-the noble Lord referred to that experience. The DWP was one of the first government departments to take the initiative of going into prisons to enable prisoners to prepare for release and to go on to the Work Programme. That certainly convinced my noble friend that what are termed "through the gate" policies are extremely effective in making rehabilitation possible.
I remember talking to a young ex-offender on her rehabilitation programme in Birmingham, who said to me, "Lord McNally, you cannot imagine the feeling of fear and foreboding when you stand at the prison gates, the gates close behind you, and you have £46 in your pocket and nowhere to go and no friends and you don't know what to do next". It is not surprising that we get this high rate of offending.
One thing that has struck me in the two and a half years that I have been in this job is that, when you go around prisons, you find lots of initiatives and ideas that work-for example, a small charity going into prison and helping prisoners to find accommodation before their release, banks being willing to help prisoners to get their finances right, and private sector employers who are willing to put training programmes into place in prisons and then offer work when prisoners are released. It has been put to me before that the best guarantees against reoffending are somewhere to live, a job and a relationship. In a way, what we are trying to do in a holistic way is to bring in other departments to meet those needs and to make sure that there are alternatives.
On freedom of information, the Secretary of State made it clear in answering questions that it will be the providers' responsibility to set out in contracts a clear commitment to transparency, but this will be considered as part of the consultation. In that respect, the noble Lord made a very valid point.
As I have said before, I hope that the probation service remains intact as a key part of our offender management arrangements, with responsibility for the most serious offenders and with oversight of the performance of those from the private and voluntary sectors who will be involved in this. I hope that the service will see it not as a threat but as an opportunity for it to play an important role in rehabilitation and to work in the kind of partnerships that the noble Lord referred to, bringing out the best of both the voluntary and private sectors and the qualities that already exist within our public sector.
I hope that the House and indeed the country will take this document as an invitation to have a serious debate about a serious problem. I have always believed that prison works but so do a lot of other things, and it is ridiculous for us as a country to spend £40,000 a year on keeping people in prison and for that to be a revolving door process whereby they go back into prison time and again. That is what this document and this debate will be about.
My Lords, a major contributor to reoffending in the past has been the lack of support for prisoners on release, who at present often come out with very little money, as my noble friend has pointed out, nowhere to go and usually no work to do. Will the Minister ensure that the really welcome new commitment to mentoring and support for all prisoners on release is quickly implemented, properly resourced and thoroughly monitored by government?
Yes, I hope so. I hope that one thing that is seen as a real breakthrough in these proposals is that we will be extending support services to those sentenced to less than 12 months. As many studies have shown, those short sentences have often been the source of most reoffending. Again, to make the point that there is a more holistic approach than that, in the Crime and Courts Bill we are trying to make community sentencing more acceptable to the public by putting a kind of punishment element into them so that they are not seen as the soft option to prison. That is another part of what we are trying to do, as is involving other departments such as the DWP and those dealing with health and social services. It is clear that a more holistic approach to rehabilitation is going to get the most results.
The statement very properly deals with some very important issues in our society, such as the high rate of reoffending. The great bulk of offences are committed by people who have already offended and this is adding to the pressure in our prisons; there is also the absence of an integrated system to deal with offenders who, as the noble Lord has said, are immediately thrust back into the community with £46 and no other help and very often no hope. The proposals have important merits which we should recognise right across the House. There is a programme for the rehabilitation of prisoners when they are released; they are not just thrown into the community. There is also an integrated proposal for mentoring them in relation to their problems and particular needs; for example, dealing with drugs or alcohol. There are already examples of this kind of approach, notably the Parc prison in Bridgend, south Wales, and this is very welcome.
I would like to ask the Minister two general questions. The policy of payments by results by private institutions is not one, as my noble friend said, that has been universally successful or indeed effective. Perhaps we could be told a bit more about these geographical regions which will be used to assess whether or not the policy of rehabilitation has been successful. Will there be any uniformity of definition about these regions? What will be deemed a successful result? If someone committing a very serious crime is then back in prison for committing a somewhat lesser crime, is that a successful result or not? I would also ask for reassurance for the probation service at a time when it is experiencing great dislocation and demoralisation. Thank you.
I thank the noble Lord for those questions. He is quite right: of the three parts of this initiative that attract me most, one is the idea of a proper mentoring programme; another is a real acceptance of "through the gate" as a concept of dealing with prisoners; and the other relates to how to deal with prisoners with less than one year's sentence. This is a consultation; the actual size and shape of the geographic regions have still to be determined, and will be determined in part by the outcome of the consultation. I suspect that my right honourable friend has in mind some fairly large regions to ensure that we get the kind of benefits of scale that large regions can provide. I cannot be firmer on that but we already have some experience of commissioning in London, where a community services contract has recently been signed that is over a four-year period and £20 million less than the existing contract. I think that they will be largish regions but we are open to consultation.
What is success? This is partly a testing of the market to see what kind of organisations are interested and what problems they foresee. It is not easy; is it one year free from reoffending, is it never reoffending and how do you prove that? It is not so simple but that is part of what the consultation process is about.
My Lords, we on these Benches very much welcome the engagement of what is described in the Statement as the voluntary and community services. As the Minister knows, faith groups are already very involved in the rehabilitation of offenders, both inside and outside prison. Can the Minister tell us how the Government will ensure that, by opening up the probation services to the market, the local, voluntary and community sectors will not be eclipsed by the private sector with its much greater resources?
First, I pay tribute to the right relevant Prelate both for the leadership and the contribution that the churches make to prison chaplaincies and for their support in the wider community. In previous debates I have referred to visits I have made to St Albans and Norwich, where the cathedrals are the centre of community efforts in rehabilitation. He makes a very relevant point about the voluntary sector. A new commitment within the group is that we will make available £500,000 of seed corn to help voluntary groups prepare proper business cases for participation. We will also build into the system for awarding contracts that organisations which include voluntary and local groups, and can clearly demonstrate that they are making full use of their expertise, will probably have a much better chance of winning contracts.
I hope that those two parts of the package-help in preparing a proper business case and a contractual advantage if they are included in bids by larger groupings-will ensure that local and voluntary organisations have a proper participation. Indeed, we would be disappointed if this was not one of the results of what we are doing. We want the ideas, initiatives and commitment that voluntary and local groups can bring to this as part of what we have termed a revolution.
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, I welcome the commitment to reducing the dreadful rate of reoffending. As an aside, I notice that the Minister did not add to his list of the factors that prevent reoffending the one that is said to mean most-a 30th birthday.
I would like to take up two points; first, the point that the Minister made at the end of the Statement-namely, that this is a very serious subject and needs a very serious debate. Will the Government be prepared to allow that debate? So far, we have not had an opportunity to debate the previous consultation which is swept up in this one. There is so much involved that it is terribly important that the issues contained in this should be properly debated in the House, whether at the end of this consultation period or not. I ask him for that.
Secondly, this business of "through the gate" and picking people up is not new. The previous Government introduced a programme called custody plus which was designed to do exactly that, but it was dropped because of fears that it would result in too many people being given short sentences which would be accompanied by this sort of follow-up. I wonder whether that same sum has been done here. The figures at present show an 8.3% success rate above the short sentence in prison rate being achieved by the probation service with short-sentence prisoners, but what we are seeing is a proposal for a complete change, not the reinforcement of success.
My second question to the Minister is this. We are dealing with offenders and offenders are dealt with by people, so offender management must be made the responsibility of someone. We have talked about responsibility for high-risk offenders and the fact that the probation service will be responsible for the initial risk assessment, but we have not had any indication of what will happen during the sentence if a medium or low-risk offender changes the level of risk. Who will be responsible for that? Will the probation service remain responsible throughout this process for the overall management of offenders on community sentences?
I thank the noble Lord for those questions. I will certainly have a look at what he refers to as the "through the gate" experience and if the Minister responsible is now in this House, I might ask him or her about their experience. Nevertheless, there is overwhelming evidence that through-the-gate help and preparation before prison, along with being met at the gate and helped afterwards, has an impact.
The probation service will continue to have oversight across the piece. Part of the consultation will be about how light-touch that will be in terms of the day-to-day management of offenders, but we are conscious of the evidence that risk can change during the process of supervision and that there may well be a need to move certain individuals from the areas being managed by the private and voluntary sectors back into the public sector. However, that will be built into the oversight provisions that are to be part of the outcome of these consultations.
On the question of a debate, it is a matter for the usual channels, but if the Government prove difficult to persuade, I am sure that my noble friend Lord Dholakia will be able to persuade the Liberal Democrats to give one of their debate days to such a discussion. One way or another, we will have a debate in this House on this matter.
I welcome this Statement, particularly its focus on those with sentences of less than 12 months and its identification of that period of vulnerability as young offenders leave prison. One of the particular areas of vulnerability is those offenders who have a previous history of drug addiction who are then prone to taking large doses of drugs which can result in death. I therefore welcome the role of a mentor, although I recognise what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has said about the perception of custody plus because I was sitting as a recorder at the time. However, the role of a mentor seems to me to be potentially very important. Can the Minister help the House by identifying who exactly is going to perform this mentoring role and what its scope might be so as to assist in avoiding those traps that I have attempted to identify?
My Lords, as part of the consultation, we will be looking at the structure of mentoring. However, in the specific terms that my noble friend has referred to-in relation to those who leave prison with problems still associated with drug addiction-one thing we are trying to do, with the co-operation of the health service, is to make sure that people who are on programmes in prison continue to receive those programmes when they leave. One of the barmier aspects of the current system is that people who have been on treatment leave prison and, surprise, surprise, their addiction returns. Part of the programme of release will be to continue programmes like that.
As for mentoring, we will just have to wait to see the response, what kind of organisations come forward with suggestions, and where we build into any mentoring programme the proper training that will enable mentors to be effective in their work.
My Lords, given that we are in nearly the third year of this Government and still have no published strategy for women offenders and those at risk of offending, I ask the Minister a short question and hope that his answer will be both short and positive. Will he confirm that the current network of women's centres, which have done such splendid work in turning women's lives around and which have spectacular results in reducing reoffending as well as working well with probation trusts, will be an acknowledged part of the new system which he is describing today?
My Lords, in relation to the question of the right reverend Prelate and also regarding mentors, will the Minister recognise the concern about the continuity of care for these people, and consider whether in his consultation there might be preferred providers? For instance, if a small voluntary body proves to have a good track record, they would not have to renegotiate after three years and spend a lot of money and time to keep that ability. The mentors that they develop would also be kept on and not left in suspense as to whether their contract will be renewed in a year or so. Certainly, in my experience, good mentors can be undermined by the lack of certainty about their future and the future contract for their organisation.
I take that very wise advice and will do my best to ensure that there is continuity.
My Lords, will my noble friend give an assurance to the House that in the consultation-for which we are all very grateful-the Government will be open-minded about the issue of the private sector, and the notion that it is appropriate that this extremely difficult task be dealt with by competition and the profit motive? Are the Government open-minded to the prospect that after the consultation this be omitted from the new scheme?
That is always a possibility. In a way, we are all on payment by results, even Ministers-fortunately, we have to wait until 2015. Obviously, we are bringing forward a programme which builds on initiatives from the last Government and which suggests that some kind of payment-by-results incentive programme encourages efficiency and innovation. We do not bring forward proposals with the anticipation that they are either going to be rejected or are going to fail. I hope that they will bring forward really constructive responses. There has been a good and constructive response from the Opposition today. I am sorry that we squeezed out the noble Lord, Lord Myners, because I am delighted that he is the new chairman of the Howard League and I look forward to working with him on this and other areas. As always, almost by default as a Liberal Democrat, I enter this period of consultation with optimism.