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Now that Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) have passed over to private providers, public consultation is underway on the proposed changes to how the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) measures reoffending rates, which are expected to come into force from October 2017. 

The proposals have been sent to the MoJ’s corporate database of over 4,000 individuals, including organisations such as The Howard League for Penal Reform and Civitas. 

Reoffending statistics to align with Payment by Results

It’ll no doubt evoke a series of debates amongst senior probation staff and private providers, as whatever is eventually decided will impact upon ‘Payment by Results’ (PbR). Any proposed ways of measuring reoffending rates will need to work with the PbR approach, which is intended to reward providers that devise and deliver the most effective rehabilitation programmes under the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda. 

2017 seems a long way off, but with statutory rehabilitation having been extended to around 45,000 short sentenced offenders who have the highest reoffending rates, the MoJ has got a huge task ahead. 

Ensuring data trends are not lost

The difficulty will be how the Ministry places a range of new reoffending statistics, whilst ensuring they do not deviate too far from existing reoffending breakdowns. After all, the annual cohorts will need to be relatable at a national level back to 2000 and at a local level back to 2005. 

New yearly publication of reoffending statistics

Currently, what’s being proposed is that the four-monthly published reoffending statistics will be replaced with three-monthly recorded cohorts that will be published on a yearly basis. These will be split between reoffending outcomes for the PbR element (notably CRCs) and reoffending outcomes for the National Probation Service (NPS). 

From October 2017, the yearly publication of reoffending statistics will include geographical level breakdowns for reoffending, with additional analysis of Serious Further Offences (SFOs). It is proposed this will provide users with the opportunity to comment on emerging work and future plans. It will also include statistics from the Youth Justice Board (YJB) for breakdown by Youth Offending Teams (YOTs). 

Providing a complete picture of reoffending

The intention is that annual cohorts will be formed by combining the four quarterly cohorts of the relevant year. Potentially, this could mean that an individual could have up to four starts within a single yearly measure. In the current measures used, that offender would only be counted once. There’s a strong argument for changing this though. The intention is to weight the measure towards prolific offenders. This will likely see an increase in reoffending rates when compared to current measures, but will help better inform CRCs and NPS on how to address those who persistently reoffend. The objective is to create a ‘complete’ picture of reoffending whilst analysing rehabilitation reforms. 

For the first time, a single framework for measuring reoffending is being proposed – this will be welcomed by CRC providers who have been vying for the change, as a consultation exercise in 2011 revealed concerns over the many different measures that exist.

Interim measures

It is being proposed that interim measures will be put in place, since the first headline PbR figures for cohort 1 (Oct-Dec 15) will not be available until October 2017. This is expected to help address the information gap during the switch from the current measures to those currently open to consultation. 

It could prove extremely tricky for CRCs and the MoJ though, depending on what the interim measures report. They will, after all, only be indicative of progress being made. As the MoJ has already pointed out in the consultation, “aside from the risk of over interpreting these figures, there is also the risk of creating confusion by presenting management information and headline measures for different cohorts of offenders at the same time”.

Hopefully, a more comprehensive local breakdown of reoffending statistics will assist
CRC and NPS probation staff in proving what works with a view to shaping future services. If the proposals get the go-ahead, we’ll see a breakdown of reoffending by each sentence type and combination for Community Orders and Suspended Sentence Orders, in addition to the new Rehabilitation Requirement Order (when available). This will provide more detail than what current National Statistics reveal in addition to breakdown of reoffending by YOTs, CSPs, Upper tier LA and Resettlement prisons. 

The new measures are open for public consultation until 30th October 2015, after which time the Ministry is likely to swiftly introduce the preferred interim measures whilst it works towards the first yearly release of data in October 2017. 

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