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By measuring what matters, we’ll tackle the underlying causes of re-offending

This morning, Dame Glenys Stacey, Chief Inspector of Probation, released her annual report into the probation system. In it, she asked powerful questions about the delivery - and the future - of the Transforming Rehabilitation programme. As a charity delivering probation, we have strong views on what this future should look like. 

28 March 2019

Chris Wright, Chief Executive of Catch22, commented:

“The original vision for Transforming Rehabilitation was a beautiful one; a community probation service, run by community organisations. The vision remains the right one, but it’s one beset by bureaucratic commissioning processes that produced a gulf between what a contract specifies, and how a life is changed.

We should celebrate the successes of the programme. Hundreds of thousands of short sentence prisoners have for the first time accessed probation services. But beyond that, we have some way to go before we can truly point to anything transformative.

A truly successful probation service needs three things. The right organisations commissioned to deliver flexibly, embedded in and from the community. Highly skilled staff, relationship builders who can support the highly complex needs of the individuals leaving prison. And finally, contracts which focus on social outcomes, not arbitrary paper targets.

The most successful social interventions have one thing in common. Rather than focusing on an arbitrary public vs private vs non-profit debate, they simply commission the organisation best placed to do the work, and manage the risk. The non-profit sector – whilst its role is nothing like the strategic leadership role initially envisaged – has proven its ability to effectively manage complex risk, whether contracts or high needs resettlement cases. HMIP has time and again recognised charities like Catch22 and Nacro for our skilled staff and thoughtful work helping build a safer society.

Probation is skilled, relationship based work. But it isn’t a skill that is unique to the public sector. A government name badge doesn’t magically mean a case worker is more effective, or more able to manage risk. And a centralised system isn’t the answer. We must assign risk to the people with the most direct accountability and control over that risk: compliance to Whitehall, safety and security and rehabilitation to the local and flexible frontline.

The right organisation, staffed by the right people, must be underpinned by an outcomes based model which measures the right thing. The current model hit the target, but misses the point; so let’s make sure that the target is meaningful. We measure rates of reoffending, but this by itself is not enough. Let’s measure what also matters; whether people have a good place to live, good people around them, and a purpose; a long term job or education. Let’s begin to measure a reduction in needs, a move out of crisis to stability for both individuals and the system. By measuring how well we’re tackling the underlying causes of offending, we’ll positively impact on the rates of re-offending.”

  • To read more about Catch22’s vision for a new probation service, click here.
  • To read more about Catch22’s justice services, click here.
  • To read Dame Gleny Stacey’s statement, click here.