Written evidence from the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners

 

Introduction

 

This submission is from the APCC CJS Portfolio Lead David Lloyd, PCC for Hertfordshire.  It provides the view of the APCC and reflects the consensus view of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), following discussion and consultation with a wide range of PCCs. In addition to this submission, PCCs have been encouraged to submit evidence to the inquiry individually.

 

  1. Executive Summary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Model

Q1: What are you views on the decision to end the competition for Probation Delivery Partners, and bring those service back into NPS delivery?

 

The decision to bring back into the NPS Unpaid Work and Accredited Programmes has potential advantages in terms of both transparency and oversight of local performance. It presents the opportunity for Unpaid Work to be better tailored to local circumstances. This is relevant to the role of PCC in the new arrangements who, as senior local CJS leader, will have a key role in working closely with the Regional Probation Director both in terms of how services are delivering locally and, in partnership with the NPS, helping to shape those services.

 

The decision to bring back Unpaid Work and Accredited Programmes within the NPS could assist local accountability and delivery as it should simplify any discussions, as the NPS will be directly responsible for their delivery and the complexities of raising issues about a service delivered by a contractor or third party will therefore be removed.

 

Secondly, this should mean that there will be a greater opportunity for PCCs to work with the NPS at local and regional levels in the future to help shape Unpaid Work in their areas. It should also be easier for Unpaid Work to be developed and adapted than if it were provided through a commissioned service; for it to be more appropriately tailored to local circumstances; and to take advantage of local opportunities.

 

HMPPS will need to ensure that they have appropriately skilled staff – and sufficient staff – to deliver the unpaid work and interventions.  These roles should be distinct to those of an offender manager.  There have been issues with the HMPPS recruitment process so it is a concern whether the right calibre of staff can be sourced and trained in time.

 

Q2: How were private sector providers involved in the decision to end competition?

No submission

 

Q3: What are your views on the new model of probation?

The APCC has been working closely with HMPPS over the last two and half years on the new probation model. This work has been delivered through a joint HMPPS/APCC Working Group which until recently met regularly, with 9 meetings of the Working Group in 2019.

 

There is, however, a frustration that pre-Covid consultation and engagement with HMPPS was good, there was effective communication and constructive feedback was listened to and actioned upon.  Since then changes have been made and decisions made without consultation undoing much of the collaborative work achieved at the beginning of the year.

 

Positive aspects of the new model are that there should be a greater capacity for Regional Directors to fulfil their roles by having 12 instead of 9.   Additionally, having one probation team, should prevent the siloed working and unhealthy competitive division which came about with TR and will hopefully improve sentencer confidence in community sentences. Similarly, having one data set should make strategic review of operational performance easier and better enable discussions on how to improve performance without barriers created by contractual restrictions

 

It is also hoped that the new model will bring greater consistency with offender management in the prison and community which will hopefully make for a smoother transition process

 

The new probation model also provides the opportunity for PCCs to have a much more meaningful relationship with the NPS, both in terms of the local delivery of probation services but also in terms of commissioning and co-commissioning of rehabilitative services to reduce re-offending. The benefits of an enhanced PCC role are numerous and include:

 

This opportunity, however, does not appear to have been maximised and PCCs believe that they could, and should, play a much more significant role in the new probation model. While from discussions with HMPPS there is a clear expectation that PCCs will work closely with Regional Probation Directors to help deliver the benefits listed above, this has not been formalised and will depend, ultimately, on individual relationships with PCCs.

 

The extent of the PCC role in the new model is heavily predicated on how effectively the new Regional Probation Director structure works with PCCs (and other key stakeholders). One of the concerns about the current arrangements has been the variable ways of working and engagement from CRCs and the NPS with PCCs, other CJS stakeholders and key local forums such as Local Criminal Justice Boards. While there are examples of positive relationships at a local level, there are also more numerous examples of a lack of engagement from CRCs in particular. We would not wish to see this inconsistency of engagement and partnership working replicated with the new model.

 

While HMPPS have explained that there is an expectation of a close working relationship between the Regional Probation Director and the PCC, the APCC believes that this should be under-pinned with some kind of formal articulation of that working relationship and the respective roles, responsibilities and expectations. This would both emphasise the priority to be given to this key relationship and provide clarity on how this relationship would work. The risk otherwise is that the short-comings of the current system are repeated, and opportunities are missed to develop meaningful partnership working – especially in the commissioning and co-commissioning of services.

 

The new model also presents an opportunity to develop a much more partnership based approach to the commissioning and co-commissioning of rehabilitative services, which would both build on the work many PCCs were already taking forward in this area and ensure that service provision was reflective of and responsive to local need. Many services addressing criminogenic needs are provided only by small third sector agencies, often focussed within specific geographic areas. They are not commercially viable on larger scales so tend to only be provided by charities and social enterprises. NPS regions are too large to be able to build relationships with and coordinate such a disparate set of potential providers. Conversely PCCs are well placed to manage this and often have established relationships and coordination mechanisms. Effective partnerships between Regional NPS and PCCs is therefore the key to accessing and making the most of these opportunities.

 

The creation of a Regional Outcome Innovation Fund allocated to the Regional Probation Director is welcomed. The fund will allow the Regional Probation Director to co-commission resettlement and rehabilitation services with partners at a local level. The intention is that PCCs would have a key role in working with the Regional Director on this and co-commissioning these services.

 

The PCC view is that it would make far more sense for this budget to be held by PCCs and administered through their local Criminal Justice or Reducing Reoffending Boards. PCCs could then be required to work with the HMPPS Regional Directors to co-commission local reducing reoffending and resettlement services.  This approach can best achieve effective co-commissioning of rehabilitation and resettlement services and would improve outcomes at a local level. This would not only ensure that PCCs have an integral and meaningful role in the commissioning and provision of resettlement and rehabilitation services at a local level but would also ensure that the new model is firmly based within local partnership arrangements. PCCs are already commissioning a range of reducing reoffending services locally and are well placed to leverage funding from local partners to support work around reducing re-offending.

 

The APCC accepts that HMPPS have not been persuaded that the fund should sit with the PCC. HMPPS have confirmed the expectation that Regional Probation Directors will work closely with PCCs (and other key stakeholders) in using this fund, but we have not yet seen any draft guidance or fund rules to ensure that any decisions on the use of this fund are made collaboratively with PCCs and other key partners. PCCs, however, need to make decisions under their Commissioning Intentions Plans for future financial spend, but without knowing what Innovation Fund HMPPS will have, or how this will be allocated – or indeed any restrictions attached to this fund, it is difficult to know what funding to put aside for co-commissioning next financial year and beyond.

 

These concerns are mirrored when looking at the dynamic framework and provision of day one services. There is a potential opportunity for greater engagement with PCCs and more consideration of co-commissioning and pooled budgets, however, given timings for services to go live on day 1 makes such collaboration difficult in the timescales.

 

While there is much that is positive in the new model in terms of facilitating much more meaningful partnership and collaborative working between the NPS and PCCs, the APCC believes that the opportunity to benefit from the role and expertise of the PCC has not been maximised. There is both a concern that the expectations of meaningful partnership working are not under-pinned by anything that formalises this and that, in the end, this will drive inconsistency.

 

Similarly, the APCC is disappointed by the limited opportunities for collaboration in commissioning and for joint and co-commissioning under the new arrangements.

 

Q4: Does the new model address the issue of confidence in community sentence options?

To some extent this will depend on how well the Dynamic Framework operates and what services are available. In addition, for magistrates to have confidence in community sentence options they need to be in possession of all the information relating to those options. This is something that was lost under the current split system and which will need to be addressed by the NPS.

Part of the answer lies in closer working with local partnership forums including LCJBs. PCCs have a role to play in this. As local elected bodies accountable to their local communities, PCCs have a direct role to listen to and communicate with the public in relation to policing and criminal justice in their area. PCCs could play an important role in communicating CJ outcomes to the public in a clear and transparent way and helping to develop and improve confidence in the CJ system.

As the PSR writers will be from the same organisation as those presenting the PSRs at court they should be in a better position to answer any queries about the proposed sentence and will be able to address quality issues with breach reports and the suitability of the PSR contents before court proceedings. 

The issues with unpaid work and interventions should also improve if good quality staff can be recruited and work is done to improve the quality and availability of the unpaid work available and the number of group and 1:1 sessions available for interventions.

Q5: The new model aims to strengthen integration between prisons and probation by integrating through-the-gate roles, processes and products with sentence management. What is your view on this? Do you anticipate any gaps/challenges?

Strengthened integration between prisons and probation for through the gate services would be welcomed, particularly if it eradicates the situation where prisons fail to notify relevant organisations of the early release of prisoners which leads to problems in accessing suitable services and accommodation.

 

Having consistency with offender management in the prison and community will hopefully make for a smoother transition process and more holistic resettlement plans, as well as more informed rehabilitation work.  The offender managers will be able to be more trauma informed and responsive as they will be engaging with the resident in prison and seeing their progress in the community.  They should also be able to more accurately complete key paperwork based on the individual’s needs and behaviours as they will have built relationships with the individual and will be more able to properly risk assess them and provide information to local authorities to enable them to appropriately accommodate them, which is key, especially for the more complex clients.

 

Under the Dynamic Framework the services commissioned will report to the offender management enabling them to better assess in real time how a client is progressing and whether any intervention is warranted, which will hopefully reduce breach proceedings and prevent recalls and the revolving door.

 

The new model should make this integration easier, as HMPPS are one agency, but it is unclear how this will be delivered at the local level. Again, the role of the Regional Probation Director will be key to this, but equally so will how prisons are engaged and embedded within local partnership forums such as reducing re-offending boards and LCJBs.

 

These links with broader stakeholders and service providers, in particular PCCs, will be fundamental in helping bridge the gap from custody to the community. This is not something that HMPPS will be able to achieve bi-laterally through the prisons and NPS alone. Indeed, some regions, such as Yorkshire and the Humber, are working closely with the new Regional Probation Directors taking forward work which includes how best to develop and strengthen the way prisons link in with PCCs and other key partners through existing partnership structures (the Yorkshire and the Humber Rehabilitation Partnership).

 

Q6: What progress has been made in implementing the probation reforms in Wales?

No submission

 

Q7: How will the National Probation Service ensure that it maintains the innovation and best practice achieved during the Transforming Rehabilitation Reforms?

No submission

 

Commissioning: Dynamic Framework

Q8: Does the new model offer a level playing field for small and specialist voluntary and third sector organisations in regard to the commissioning? Given the challenges in the previous model, how will a new national service secure input from smaller providers?

Q9: What is the anticipated effect of procuring resettlement and rehabilitative services using a dynamic framework?

Q10: What progress has been made so far in the commissioning of services through the dynamic framework?

 

This will depend on the effectiveness of the Dynamic Framework. It is accepted that many smaller 3rd sector providers lost out when Transforming Rehabilitation was introduced as a result of new commissioning arrangements that were introduced. It remains to be seen whether smaller service providers, such as those currently being commissioned by many PCCs, will become part of what is commissioned and delivered under new probation arrangements. It is, however, too early to tell as progress with the introduction of the dynamic framework has been delayed and is still ongoing.

 

In terms of the ability of smaller specialist services to provide services under the new model, it is encouraging that, at a national level, Clinks have been working closely with HMPPS and run an advisory group to HMPPS. The Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group’s (RR3) purpose is to build a strong and effective partnership between the voluntary sector and HMPPS.

 

Having said that, the concern is that smaller organisations will not have the structure or estate in place to deliver services across a large region such as the South West or even across some PCC areas which are not only vast geographically but also include very different needs in terms of remote rural and high urban demand.  What is happening at the moment is that larger organisations are taking the lead and bringing in smaller organisations where they need extra coverage.  This involves sub- contracting and consortiums which when formed to secure funding only can lead to a division. It also means the larger organisations may not understand local needs, partnerships and the need to work collaborative with current services.

 

The recent re-shaping of the Dynamic Framework, however, does represent a change that, ideally, would not have been necessary. We recognise the changes that have had to be made to the new model in light of Covid and that the model is still evolving. 

 

The latest changes include increased regionalisation in regard to contracting services, which gives rise to two key concerns:

  1. Despite a clear desire for NPS to co-commission in partnership with PCCs, this will become much more challenging if a greater number of contracts are to be awarded at a regional level. PCCs are keen to work in partnership but need to ensure accountability for our funding and therefore influence over the decisions made. 
  2. Regional contracts may make it harder for local third sector organisations to bid for.  These small, local charities are often best placed to understand and respond to local needs, in a cost-effective and efficient way.  Collaborative and consortia bids are a laudable concept, but frequently challenging for these small organisations to achieve, particularly given timeframes imposed and the additional time and financial costs of preparing bids. 

 

The risk is that the combined outcome of these concerns will be a less local approach to delivery, which would ultimately impact on the end-user. 

 

Accommodation and ETE are the services that will now be commissioned at a regional level and it is understood that this decision was based on HMPPS market analysis which indicated that larger national VCSEs were already delivering accommodation and ETE services to the NPS and CRCs and have also registered interest in the Dynamic Framework. HMPPS have provided an assurance the focus will still be on the ability of any bidders to deliver at a local level and that this would have been the case even if the services had been commissioned at PCC level, as this was still too large a geographic footprint for effective service delivery. There is a concern that larger organisations will successfully apply under the DF and will sub contract/form a consortium with smaller organisations to deliver across regions (especially accommodation and ETE) and as these have been formed quickly, without the appreciation of how one another operate, these are at risk of collapsing early on leaving gaps in service

 

HMPPs have stated that the fact that there is a Regional Call-Off-Competitions does not mean delivery won’t be local and that HMPPS nationally will discuss with Regional Probation Directors what geographical footprint will be required for effective service delivery. There is a question, however, as to the extent (if any) that PCC knowledge and expertise of local areas will be utilised as part of this process, as there is nothing to suggest that this will be anything other than an entirely internal process within HMPPS?

 

There are similar questions about the extent to which PCCs' local knowledge will be taken into account in the competitions for Personal Well-being and Women’s Services, both of which are being run at PCC level.

 

The other change to the commissioning of services through the Dynamic Framework is the decision that services for Dependency Recovery and Finance, Benefits and Debt will now be commissioned through the Regional Probation Directors directly. This is welcomed and presents a potential opportunity for Regional Probation Directors to work in partnership with other commissioners, such as PCCs, who are in some areas already commissioning such services. This enables Regional Probation Directors to make the most of existing local knowledge and expertise, to commission on the basis of local need and landscape and avoid the risk of any duplication.

 

 

Transition

Q11: CRCs and NPS staff are being brought back together under the new model. How is this transition being managed?

Q12: CRCs currently use several different operating systems – how easy will it be to merge these into one model? Do you foresee any challenges?

Q13: What impact is the transition having on the voluntary/third sector organisations already providing probation services?

Q14: The Ministry of Justice made the decision to end the competition for Probation Delivery Partners and bring these services into the NPS. These services are to go live in June 2021; is there sufficient time to transition probation over to the new model?

This timescale is challenging, as an already tight timescale has been further impacted by delays as a result of Covid 19. There must also be a risk of further delays should there be a 2nd wave of Coronavirus. The commissioning of services, training/preparing staff for the changes and making arrangements for resources and buildings can take a significant amount of time and it would be good to understand what contingency planning has been put in place.

 

There are also likely to be significant challenges due to the impact of Covid 19 on budgets and available resources which can be expected to impact on the ability local authorities, Police Forces and PCCs to work with NPS and partners to co-commission services. For example, local authorities are facing significant budgetary pressures due to Covid. This will place a significant burden on local services and accommodation. Finding appropriate accommodation for offenders is an essential step in addressing their offending behaviour. Finding suitable accommodation was already a challenge and will be an even greater challenge moving forward, unless substantive resources are provided to ensure offender accommodation, as single men are at the bottom of the priority listing practice.

 

 

Workforce

Q15: Does the new model address workload issues, e.g. high caseloads, recruitment/retention?

Q16: What progress has been made towards probation being recognised as a “skilled profession”?

Covid-19

Q17: What impact has Covid-19 had on the probation service?

Q18: What lessons have been learnt from this period of Exceptional Delivery, that should be taken forward into the new model of probation delivery?

During lockdown the approach taken by HMPPS been based around a series of Exceptional Delivery Models (EDMs) that have defined the service and what is expected to be delivered by the CRC Suppliers at each stage of lockdown. Like other front line organisations the probation service has had to adjust its ways of working to protect staff and clients. Anecdotally we have heard that contact, albeit virtually, has been more regular and that some clients have responded well to this approach. For others, the lack of face to face contact has not, however, worked as well.

We understand that HMPPS are now moving into the recovery phase and focussing on returning services. There is an opportunity to consider how the greater use of technology adopted during Covid-19 can be embedded in long-term service delivery to complement, rather than replace more traditional face to face methods of offender management. This also will be necessary as one of options to address the backlogs that have built up as a result of Covid 19.

On a general level, Covid has reinforced the need and appetite to work in a more holistic way across all agencies. New multi-agency working arrangements have developed through Covid which should prove useful for probation in the future. This provides an opportunity to break down traditional barriers between services to have a positive impact on reoffending.

 

 

September 2020