A multi-agency approach to offender rehabilitation
By Gary Pettengell, CEO, Empowering-Communities
A disjointed prison system, coupled with a probation service in transition, is failing to tackle the growing epidemic of reoffending in the UK. It’s costing the taxpayer £15 billion every year and the government knows it’s a problem.
Ex-offenders often exit the prison gates with a lack of direction and end up spiralling back into a perpetual cycle of crime. The only sustainable solution is to adopt a multi-agency approach to rehabilitation. One that encourages various partners from the public, private and third sectors to work together and address the complex needs of every individual.
For example, it’s been proven that gainful employment reduces the chance of reoffending. Helping someone into work increases their self-esteem and financial independence. But it takes more than Jobcentre Plus (JCP) to make that happen, as everyone faces their own set of barriers.
Around a third of prisoners have learning difficulties and almost half have no school qualifications. Many leave prison with no permanent address and 49% suffer from anxiety or depression.
Education in prison
No-one is solely responsible for education and training. As it stands, a variety of diverse organisations provide different types of help.
- OLASS providers teach basic English and maths skills.
- Charities, such as Working Chance, help offenders to gain places on employment schemes.
- Private companies, like Blue Sky, help people to move into work via a ‘release on temporary licence’.
- Timpson and Virgin Trains offer in-prison academies.
It’s here that the collaboration needs to begin. All self-development activity should be logged in a shared system, which can be accessed by a range of partners. This would allow every relevant service to appreciate the nuances of each individual - from substance misuse charities to JCP Work Coaches.
We already work in this way with MOVEON East - a Norfolk-based charity that helps ex-offenders to prepare for work and find accommodation. Part of their role involves helping clients to open a bank account, obtain an ID or apply for a job when they’ve lost all of their paperwork.
They can only achieve this by collaborating with other organisations, such as the National Probation Service, Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), the Police, Stonham, the Matthew Project and support workers. Each agency logs into E-CINS and maintains a record of relevant interventions.
Toni Keryell-Emmerson, a MOVEON east Employment Adviser, explains:
“The clients benefit from a joined-up service that our team provides because there is constant communication with the team. Sometimes there are different versions of stories from the clients and having everything noted in E-CINS gives us the true picture. We can provide a united front as we are all singing from the same hymn sheet.”
It also reduces duplication, creates automatic referrals and allows data to be analysed across all three sectors.
The role of CRCs
The Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme involved outsourcing part of the Probation Service to 21 privately-run CRCs. These operate on a ‘payment-by-results’ contract with no built-in incentives relating to employment.
It’s led to a breakdown in communication within the former Probation Service itself with some reporting that they’re worried about sharing information - even within the same office.
In 2015, John, who works for the publicly-run National Probation Service, told The Guardian:
“There is this idea that because we’re separate organisations now we can’t allow the other organisation to see our work because it’s confidential, which is absolute nonsense because six months ago we were all working together.”
Rather than create more barriers, CRCs could be the at the very heart of ex-offender rehabilitation. Imagine if all practitioners could instantly gain an understanding of the complex issues facing every individual. They could collaborate with JCP, rehabilitation charities, housing associations, in-prison training providers and potential employers.
By tackling a problem from several different angles, you can address any underlying root causes. And if a former prisoner is keen to move on, we should do everything in our power to support them.
Empowering-Communities is sponsoring the Team of the Year Award with the IEP at the 2017 ERSA Awards on 29th June.