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National Objectives for Social Work Services in the Criminal Justice System: Standards Throughcare


National Objectives for Social Work Services in the Criminal Justice System: Standards - Throughcare



74.Once a prisoner is due to be considered for discretionary release on parole or life licence a dossier of information to assist the decision-making process is compiled, including reports from prison staff and other professionals with a knowledge of the prisoner and his/her circumstances and (in cases of prisoners sentenced on or after 1 October 1993) a report from the trial judge. The social work department in the area in which the prisoner intends to reside on release is required to provide a Home Background Report offering information about a range of factors which may influence the resettlement prospects of the prisoner on his/her release to that area. The social work unit in the prison is required to provide a separate report.



75.To provide information to assist the Secretary of State and the Parole Board in decision-making about early and conditional release of life sentence and determinate sentence prisoners.

76.To identify and provide an assessment of the risk of further offending on release, taking account of the prisoner's experience of imprisonment, his/her future plans, and the social and family context to which the prisoner will return.

77.To provide an opportunity for discussion of achievable release plans and, wherever possible, to engage the prisoner in general preparation and planning for release.


78.The Governor should ensure that no less than 6 weeks' notice be given to the social worker in prison for preparation and compilation of the report. He/she should have access from the prison to any social enquiry report, the list of previous convictions and a copy of the relevant indictment and the trial Judge's report, where applicable (see paragraph 31).

79.It is essential that social workers in prison consult and liaise with the relevant social work department in whose area the prisoner intends to reside on release. This should take place prior to the compilation of the report but after at least one home visit by the Home Background Report author and one interview by the social worker in prison.

80.The purpose of this consultation and liaison is:

80.1to ensure the accuracy and consistency of information and advice offered to the Secretary of State;

80.2to agree a joint assessment of risk of re-offending and levels of required supervision and support;

80.3to consider what specialist resources are available in the area where the prisoner plans to reside on release;

80.4from the above consultation, to agree a joint approach and provisional action plan, pre and post release; and

80.5to encourage a responsible sense of ownership by the prisoner for developing his/her sentence planning and post-release requirements, in conjunction with key support personnel.

Basis of Report

81.A parole report prepared by a social worker in the prison should normally be based on 2 interviews with the prisoner, specifically for the purpose of preparing the report. Where work is already being undertaken with the prisoner, one interview specifically for parole purposes may suffice.

82.n many cases information thus obtained will be supplemented by knowledge based on previous or continuing contact with the prisoner and his/her family and from joint work or consultation with other staff or agencies (e.g. addiction or employment) in the prison.

83.In every case the basis of the report must be stated clearly (e.g. the number of interviews, extent of previous knowledge, contact with the family or other agencies, contact with community-based worker etc.).

84.The source of any information contained within the report must be indicated clearly. Care must be taken to differentiate between fact and opinion.

Content of Report

85.Each report must indicate, assess and comment upon the following areas:

85.1personal circumstances:

85.1.1domestic arrangements;

85.1.2accommodation on release;

85.1.3any changes to these during sentence;

85.1.4any significant health issues.

85.2attitude to offence

85.3attitude to present sentence

85.4attitude to and plans for release

85.5response to imprisonment:

85.5.1efforts to address his/her offending behaviour and its causes;

85.5.2use of educational opportunities (any skills/qualifications obtained);

85.5.3prison work/training (especially any vocational training undertaken);

85.5.4contact with social work unit and involvement in any social work programmes (specify details);

85.5.5prisoner's perception of his/her relationships with staff/prisoners;

85.5.6any significant pattern of disciplinary reports.

85.6family/other significant relationships

85.6.1prisoner's account of the nature and frequency of contact during sentence (visits/letters): the frequency of visits can be checked against prison records;

85.6.2prisoner's views about his/her family/domestic situation (especially any recognition of possible difficulties) and his/her attitude on return.


85.7.1employment record;

85.7.2intentions and attitudes to employment/training;

85.7.3recreation activities;

85.7.4associations/peer group (especially any co-accused).


85.9.1prisoner's use of these;

85.9.2prisoner's attitudes to these;

85.9.3evidence of any problem in relation to these/action taken to address any such problem.


85.9.1attitude to and experience of supervision;

85.9.2previous response to supervision and social worker's comment on this.

85.10availability of specialist resources in community, e.g. alcohol/drug counselling projects; supported accommodation; pre-employment training etc., from voluntary and/or statutory sector as part of a potential release plan.

85.11assessment of risk of further offending.

86.Social workers should seek to provide a package of proposals intended to minimise the risk of the prisoner re-offending if the Secretary of State were to decide to release the prisoner on parole.

87.Social workers must ensure that factual information is provided in relation to each of the above areas. It is of particular importance that they should, wherever possible:

87.1comment on the information obtained;

87.2seek to identify pattern of behaviour;

87.3seek to identify changes in circumstances, behaviour etc.; and

87.4identify any particular needs and, where possible, suggest services to meet these.

88.The report should include a provisional Action Plan outlining:

88.1work to be undertaken with the prisoner prior to release; and

88.2where appropriate, the nature of work to be undertaken following release including any specialist services/requirements which may be needed.


89.Prisoners sentenced to 4 or more years of custody on or after 1 October 1993, who are not released on parole supervision, will be discharged on mandatory supervision on reaching two-thirds of their sentence.

90.The Secretary of State is required to consult the Parole Board where he intends to impose a non-standard condition in the supervision licence.

91.Such consultation can take one of 2 forms:

91.1consultation based on previous Parole Dossiers in respect of the prisoner; or

91.2where a prisoner has refused to be considered for parole, reports obtained from prison staff.

92.Should the prison staff reports suggest the desirability of imposing any non-standard conditions, the Secretary of State, at his discretion, may request a Home Background Report (HBR) and a report from the social worker in the prison.

93.Although the requests for such reports from the Parole Board or Secretary of State for Scotland will be infrequent, the objectives remain the same as for parole and life licence reports. (See paragraphs 78 to 88)

94.Should such a social work report from prison be requested, it should be noted that there is no power to compel the prisoner to agree to be interviewed, if he/she is not willing to co-operate. Nevertheless, social work units in prisons should seek to engage with such prisoners and explain to them:

94.1the procedure and its purposes;

94.2the mandatory nature of social work supervision on release, together with the sanctions available for non-compliance; and

94.3the advantages and benefits available to the prisoner through co-operation with the process.

95.Where a prisoner is willing to co-operate, the full procedures outlined in relation to parole reports should be followed (see paragraphs 78 to 88 above).


96.Social workers in prison must always confirm that the prisoner understands the process and ensure that he/she understands the nature of statutory supervision following release.

97.It is essential that social workers in prison consult and liaise with the relevant local authority social work department in whose area the prisoner plans to reside on release in order to ensure the accuracy and consistency of the information and advice offered to the Secretary of State.

Basis and Content of Report

98.The basis and content of any report should, as far as possible, reflect the arrangements for parole and life licences outlined at paragraphs 81 to 88 above.

99.If a prisoner decides not to co-operate in the preparation of a report, the social worker must compile a report based on any information already available to the social work unit (for example, on previous contact with the prisoner), and must advise the prisoner of this. The prisoner must also be advised that he/she will be given the opportunity to see and comment on this report.

100.The social worker should draw on information contained in the social work unit's own files where there has been previous contact with the prisoner, and on any relevant information contained in the prison file. The social worker may also seek the views of prison staff or other professionals with a knowledge of the prisoner, but must not contact the prisoner's family or friends for information.

101.In particular the social worker must try to identify any particular risks which the prisoner might pose on his/her release, and should offer a view as to the desirability of any specific condition in the licence which might reduce this risk.

102Social workers in prisons should, therefore, pay particular attention to any issues surrounding alcohol or drugs use by the prisoner; the prisoner's response to any specific counselling or intervention programmes during his/her sentence; and to any changes in the prisoner's own circumstances (or those of his/her family, if known) which might influence resettlement prospects.

103.The social worker must provide the prisoner with a copy of the report and should offer to discuss it with him/her. The prisoner must also be advised that he/she may write to SOHD if there are any aspects of the report with which he/she disagrees.

Prisoner Access to Reports

104.The social worker must discuss the content of any non-parole reports with the prisoner. Those prisoners who are involved in the parole process will, in any case, normally see the full Parole Dossier in due course. For those prisoners who opt out of the parole process, social workers must discuss the content, and provide a copy, of any social work report requested by the Secretary of State. Further information on prisoner access to reports is contained in Chapter 10 on Disclosure.


Phase 1: Notification of Release Date

105.Much of the task of the social worker in the prison is directed towards assisting prisoners to prepare themselves for release.

106.As part of this process, social workers in prisons must try to engage the prisoner in the development of a realistic and achievable release plan. The social worker must make it clear that this will involve the identification of problems and issues, and that the worker and the prisoner will need to agree how best to tackle these problems, involving community-based resources as necessary.

107.At least 4 weeks' notice of notification of the release date should be given by the Governor to the local authority in the area where the prisoner intends to reside on release. The appropriate local authority social work department must nominate a Supervising Officer within 7 days of receipt of notification of the date of a prisoner's release on parole or statutory licence.

108.When earlier notification of release is given in respect of long term or life licence prisoners, the local authority must also advise the Parole Board of the Supervising Officer within 7 days.

Phase 2: Following Notification of Release Date

109.Notification of a prisoner's release date will, in most cases, be the trigger for more detailed planning for release and should mark the start of more intensive involvement by the nominated Supervising Officer in the community.

110.The social worker in prison must liaise with the social work department team for the area in which the prisoner intends to reside. The purpose of this is to exchange information, review the provisional action plan outlined at paragraph 88 above, and to identify problems arising from the prisoner's release plans at this stage.

111.The principal task during this period is for the social worker in the prison, the Supervising Officer in the community and the prisoner to review the initial action plan outlined at paragraph 88 above, indicating pre and post release arrangements in respect of the prisoner. Detailed planning must begin not less than 7 days after notification of release. Where advance notice of release exceeds 3 months, this detailed planning must take place during the last 3 months in custody.

112.The Supervising Officer is required to visit the proposed release address prior to the prisoner's release; following this visit any potential problems which the release of the prisoner to that address may generate should be identified and necessary steps taken to resolve such problems.

113.During the early part of this period the Supervising Officer will continue to focus particularly on issues to be addressed in the community, whilst the focus of work in the prison will be the immediate needs of the prisoner. Close liaison between these 2 workers is clearly essential at this stage to ensure a co-ordinated approach to the prisoner's release.

114.In every case, the 2 strands of pre-release work must be brought together formally at a meeting to be convened by the social worker in the prison at least four weeks before the release date. This should be a meeting between the prisoner, the social worker in the prison and the Supervising Officer. Other interested parties (i.e. community-based addiction agencies, employment-related agencies, relevant staff in the prison) may be invited, as appropriate.

115.The purpose of the meeting is to refine the prisoner's pre- and post-release plans, to agree the allocation of tasks and to indicate the likely level of contact with the Supervising Officer during the first 3 months after release. It must provide an overall assessment of needs and address any outstanding issues surrounding accommodation, finance, employment relations and personal or behavioural problems experienced by the prisoner. Social workers may need to encourage the prisoner to examine the mechanisms his/her family and friends may have evolved to deal with his/her absence, and to recognise the problems this may generate on return to the community. The meeting must also identify action still to be taken, must agree priorities, and must aim to ensure that all necessary contacts and arrangement with other agencies (e.g. DSS, Housing Departments) are effected before the prisoner's release.

116.A written note of agreements reached at the meeting must be prepared by the social worker in the prison and circulated to all participants.

117.It is essential that the prisoner is advised of progress in implementing actions, if necessary through additional meetings.

118.In many cases the social worker in the prison may be required to facilitate contact between the prisoner and relevant agencies in the community prior to release. Key staff in those agencies should be encouraged, wherever possible, to visit the prisoner prior to his/her release.


Phase 1: Notification of Release Date

119.Advance notice of the release date should be made by the prison Governor to both the social work unit in the prison and the local authority in which area the prisoner intends to reside, as soon as it becomes clear that a prisoner will be released on non-parole licence. In the case of a prisoner who opts out of the parole system, this must be at least 6 months prior to the release date.

Phase 2: Following Notification of Release Date

120.The pre-release process as outlined for parole (see paragraph 109) should be followed but the tasks outlined should be completed 4 months prior to release.

121.Where available, the initial action plan defined in the course of this process should be reviewed at a meeting of the prisoner, social worker in prison, community-based social worker and any specialist agency during the last month prior to release. The written record of this review must be forwarded to all relevant parties by the social work unit in prison within one week of the date of that review, but always prior to release.

122.In the event of prisoner non-co-operation, every effort shall be made by the social work unit in prison to encourage the prisoner to co-operate with the process.

123.In the event of partial co-operation, the process relating to drawing up pre-release and supervision plans, should nevertheless be undertaken as far as possible, notwithstanding the level of co-operation from the prisoner;

124.Where the prisoner declines to engage with the process, the pre-release planning meeting will not normally be required. Discussions should be conducted between social workers by means of telephone and letter. The prisoner must be advised of the outcome of all such discussions

125.The prisoner should also receive in writing an indication of:

125.1the nature and timescale of the release processes;

125.2the advantages and benefits to be accrued from co-operation;

125.3a reminder of the mandatory nature of social work supervision on release together with the sanctions for non-compliance; and

125.4an invitation to contact the social worker in prison or the community based Supervising Officer at any time regarding these or other matters.


126.Prisoners are released on mandatory supervision on a short sentence licence where:

126.1they had previously been released from custody on mandatory supervision, and

126.2committed a new offence during that period of supervision; and

126.3for that offence and for breach of supervision, received a new custodial sentence of between 6 months and 4 years.

Pre-Release Work

127.As far as possible, the Standards in relation to non-parole licences should be followed (see paragraph 119).


Voluntary Assistance

128.Some prisoners not subject to statutory supervision will seek voluntary assistance on release. Other prisoners may, because of their own vulnerability or the risk they constitute to others on release, be assessed as needing such assistance but unlikely to seek it. It will be an important element of the prison social work task to encourage these prisoners towards seeking voluntary assistance on release, and, where this is successful, to facilitate contact with the relevant local area team or voluntary agency prior to the prisoner's release, to build on work already undertaken in prison. (See paragraph 162)

129.Where a serving prisoner seeks voluntary assistance from the social work department or a voluntary sector agency, that agency should, or in the case of the social work department must make contact with the prisoner, either directly or indirectly as soon as possible but within one month of receipt of the request for assistance.

130.Some cases of voluntary assistance may require a statement which identifies and assesses the prisoner's needs. This will be a matter for the judgement of the relevant workers in each case.

Objectives of Voluntary Assistance

131.The objectives of voluntary assistance are:

131.1to provide and facilitate a range of services for prisoners and ex-prisoners and, where appropriate, their families, to assist them to deal with any problems they may face particularly following release;

131.2to assist offenders to reduce the risk of their re-offending through the provision of a range of services to meet identified needs;

131.3to seek to limit and redress the damaging consequences of imprisonment including the dislocation of family and community ties, the loss of personal choice, and the resultant stigma;

131.4to help prisoners and their families to develop their ability to tackle their own problems;

131.5to help prisoners and their families, on request, to prepare for release;

131.6to assist the families of released prisoners to adjust to the changed circumstances arising from the prisoner's return, where such a service is needed and requested; and

131.7to assist ex-prisoners to reintegrate successfully into the community and thus reduce the incidence of crime.


Compassionate Release

132.A request for release on compassionate grounds in terms of section 3(1) of the Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings (Scotland) Act 1993 may be made by any party acting on behalf of the prisoner, although in the majority of cases the Governor will be responsible for the initial notification to the Parole and Miscarriages Review Division of SOHD. The most likely circumstances in which compassionate release will be granted are where the life expectancy of the prisoner is short.

133.The primary information source will be a medical report commissioned by the Governor. A Home Background Report will also be requested, and should focus on the health care plan and willingness of family members, the health services and other agencies to provide an appropriate level of support.

134.The Governor of the prison will notify both the social work unit in the prison and the relevant local authority of the imminent release of a prisoner on compassionate grounds, as soon as possible so that a Supervising Officer can be appointed. Where the social work unit in the prison has relevant information or knowledge about a prisoner, they must liaise as appropriate with the community-based social worker.

Temporary Release

135.Under certain circumstances, prisoners may be released temporarily on home leave. Details of the procedures for preparation of home background reports to assess suitability for home leave, and the supervision of prisoners on home leave, are to be found in Annex A.

Schedule 1 Offenders

136.Special arrangements apply in respect of those convicted of offences against children (Schedule 1 offences). The specific requirements in respect of these offenders are detailed in Chapter 11.


137.It is the responsibility of prison governors to ensure that social work units in prisons are notified, if possible in advance, failing which within 72 hours of any transfer to another prison, of a prisoner subject to mandatory supervision on release.

138.It is the responsibility of social work units in prisons to ensure that all social work records held in that unit, appertaining to a prisoner, should be sent to the prison social work unit to which a prisoner is subsequently transferred, within 2 weeks of that transfer.