Written evidence from David Lloyd, Police and Crime Commissioner, Hertfordshire
Hertfordshire’s PCC David Lloyd welcomes the opportunity to give evidence to the Justice Select Committee on the future of the probation service.
Q1: What are you views on the decision to end the competition for Probation Delivery Partners, and bring those service back into NPS delivery?
Q2: How were private sector providers involved in the decision to end competition?
Q3: What are your views on the new model of probation?
Q4: Does the new model address the issue of confidence in community sentence options?
Response questions 1-4:
In November 2017 I responded to the transforming rehabilitation inquiry. In responding to this most recent inquiry, I am interested in how far we have moved since 2017 and what lessons have been learnt to ensure we retain the best elements of transforming rehabilitation.
In 2017 I noted that large probation areas, on their own distinctive regional boundaries, adds to an already fragmented criminal justice landscape, constrains local flexibility and stifles innovation. It inhibits local criminal justice agencies all working to an agreed delivery plan or investment into local projects and joint ventures due to stringent contractual management arrangements. Hertfordshire will be part of the East of England region in the new model, covering 14 prisons, 52 local authorities and 8,294.5 square metres. It is difficult to see how the new model, and in particular regional arrangements for accommodation and ETE, will support local innovation and flexibility.
The split of Probation from one single probation service, operating locally to two probation services in every locality delivering similar services side by side and sometimes via one another led to the inefficient use of resources and confused accountability at the local level. I am hopeful that going back to one single probation service will bring improvements and simplify accountability locally.
In my 2017 response I recognised that there were real issues and concerns with CRCs. This wasn’t, and still isn’t, about whether the service was better delivered by the public or private sector, after all the private sector should be able to work more efficiently. However, the right controls were not in place and this led to the issues we saw in Hertfordshire and across the country. If Local Criminal Justice Boards or PCCs had been able to hold to account CRCs then this could have worked really well. The problem over the last few years has been the oversight of the service, rather than it being delivered by the private or public sector. As the probation service is reunified there is still a question and concern as to how they will be accountable locally.
I believe that PCCs could and should have a much bigger role in the new model, especially when looking at opportunities to co-commission services. Locally, I currently fund and commission a number of services and my office have built up very good relationships with partners across the county over the years, as well as researching what gaps in provision exist.
More of the criminal justice system, such as responsibility for prisons and probation should be devolved down to PCCs where more can be done to integrate offender management with other services important for the rehabilitation of offenders, such as housing, health and employment services. As Chair of the Hertfordshire Criminal Justice Board I have a key role to support improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of the system locally and am in a unique position to understand the local landscape in the same way as I do for victims’ services. Giving PCCs responsibility for commissioning offender services would support the development of a more integrated approach to local commissioning and strengthen the focus on outcomes, rather than outputs, to ensure that local needs are met.
I welcome the decision to bring Unpaid Work and Accredited Programmes back in to the NPS delivery and hope that with available local data we can ensure that programmes are available that meet the needs identified in Hertfordshire.
Confidence in community sentence options is a local issue as it is the local Judiciary and Magistracy who will be sentencing in Hertfordshire. These are issues that can be addressed through Local Criminal Justice Boards and through joint criminal justice plans. We have seen that available resources can be an issue for community sentence options and this is a concern. Hertfordshire are working to increase the number of mental health treatment requirements, alcohol treatment requirements and drug rehabilitation requirements that are being given by the courts (this work is part of a national programme). It is surprising that the funding available for this through NHS England provides 0.8 of an assistant psychologist to cover the whole county. Due to the limited resource it is only women that are currently being considered for the mental health treatment requirements. Community sentence treatment options need to be adequately resourced in order to ensure the Magistracy & Judiciary have confidence in using them.
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, especially as we still experience issues where prisons fail to notify relevant organisations of the early release of prisoners which leads to problems in accessing suitable services and accommodation. A recent mapping exercise in Hertfordshire found that on release from prison the majority had not secured housing or benefits.
In Hertfordshire we experience greater challenges as Hertfordshire residents will be in a number of different prisons including The Mount, Bedford, Peterborough, Littlehay, Highpoint, Wayland and Wormwood Scrubs. Currently there are approximately 1000 incarcerated males from Hertfordshire and we will see about five released a month from The Mount with a further 30-40 being released from elsewhere in the country. If we want through-the-gate to work then this needs to be addressed.
The draft target operating model highlights the importance that through-the-gate plays in resettlement and rehabilitation. This means a greater level of engagement with the responsible officer whilst in prison to support pre-release assessment and co-ordination of resettlement interventions. Whilst this is supported it needs to be adequately resourced in areas such as Hertfordshire where responsible offices will need to travel extensively in order to visit many of the prisons that Hertfordshire residents will be in.
Q6: What progress has been made in implementing the probation reforms in Wales?
Q7: How will the National Probation Service ensure that it maintains the innovation and best practice achieved during the Transforming Rehabilitation Reforms?
There is a real opportunity here for local partnership working which extends beyond NPS and transforming rehabilitation reforms. The current powers limit PCCs to go beyond being able to convene agencies as Chair of local criminal justice boards. PCCs do not have the authority to direct, guide and steer agencies to agree to a joint plan which may require additional or changing resources that may not benefit that organisation directly, but is in the interests of the wider ‘system’.
There needs to be a clear performance framework that sits behind the operating model and clear accountability locally; localism is not something that probation has historical done well. Local criminal justice boards should be at the centre of the system with the ability to hold partners to account for local performance. The current inability to co-commission services and pool budgets makes this a challenge. Even when CJ local leaders may share a vision for reform, many of those sitting around the table do not have the flexibility to unlock portions of their budgets to fund joint working and/or innovative reform.
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?
Response questions 8-10:
Accommodation and ETE will now be commissioned through the dynamic framework at a regional level which is disappointing. In particular there are concerns around accommodation having seen the impact of the regional accommodation hub led by NPS during covid-19 in response to ‘everyone in’. The decision to create a regional accommodation hub to ensure accommodation was found for those leaving prison during the pandemic led to challenges locally. The regional arrangements meant there was a lack of local knowledge which saw prison leavers expecting accommodation which was no longer available. I hope lessons will be learnt from this to ensure that regional arrangements for accommodation are successful.
It remains to be seen how PCC local knowledge will be considered in the competitions for Personal Well-being and Women’s Services. Women’s services is a particular challenge in Hertfordshire with only one women’s centre across the whole county.
The through-the-gate element of the dynamic framework specification notes the requirement to meet prisoners pre-release, at the gate and continue post-release. Whilst the benefit in this and building rapport pre release is clear, this requirement needs to be reflected in the contract values particularly for large counties such as Hertfordshire that see offenders located in many different prisons outside of the county.
PCCs are in an optimal position to commission or co-commission offender services so they are locally tailored and do not lead to perverse outcomes as seen with Payments by Results. Giving PCCs responsibility for commissioning offender services would support the development of a more integrated approach to local commissioning and strengthen the focus on outcomes, rather than outputs, to ensure that local needs are met.
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?
The timescale is challenging and has been further impacted by delays as a result of Covid 19. Due to the significant delays it is recognised that we should perhaps put things back.
Q15: Does the new model address workload issues, e.g. high caseloads, recruitment/retention?
There were challenges in Hertfordshire pre covid around retention and high caseloads. A HMPPS inspection at the end on 2019 found numerous issues regarding caseload, unmanageable workloads, shortfall of staff that led to recruitment of agency staff and staff working in poor facilities. It is not clear that the new model addresses these issues.
Q16: What progress has been made towards probation being recognised as a “skilled profession”?
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?
Response questions 17 & 18
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.
One of the benefits of covid has been receiving timely, local data from HMCTS. The same level of data shared by HMPPS would be welcome to enable effective local conversations regarding reducing reoffending.
Q19: Are there any other areas relating to the Probation Reform Programme that you would like to brief the Committee on, that are not already covered by the Terms of Reference above? (If yes, please provide information)
There is little reference to Integrated Offender Management (IOM) in the target operating model which is surprising as the recent HMICFRS inspection was quite critical of IOM having lost its way. More consideration of where IOM fits in the new model would be welcomed.