Criminal justice social work statistics: 2020 - 2021

Mainly national-level information on criminal justice social work activity in Scotland in the first full year affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Includes data on justice social work services and social work orders, as well as characteristics of the individuals involved.

This document is part of a collection

Annex A Sources of information and data quality

A.1 The annual aggregate CJS return for local authority justice social work services was introduced for 1999-00 and covered social enquiry reports (now criminal justice social work reports), community service orders and probation orders. The content and format of the return has changed over time to reflect new developments and an increasing demand for information, as well as to clarify points of definition in relation to particular data items. Additional items include:

  • supervised attendance orders (2000-01, removed, alongside community service orders and probation orders, from 2016-17 onward)
  • throughcare (statutory post release supervision) (2001-02)
  • diversion from prosecution (2001-02)
  • drug treatment and testing orders (2003-04, removed from 2012-13 onward)
  • bail information (2003-04)
  • voluntary throughcare (2004-05)
  • court services (2004-05)
  • throughcare addiction service (2005-06, removed from 2015-16 onward)
  • community payback orders (2011-12, removed from 2012-13 onward)
  • fiscal work orders (2015-16)
  • structured deferred sentences (2018-19).

A.2 Data for community payback and drug treatment & testing orders has been collected at unit level for each order since 2012-13. The aim of this change has been to enable analysis of the process and outcomes for individual orders, which is not feasible through a collection of aggregate tables. This allows the scope for looking at how each order progresses and provides more detailed information on outcomes.

A.3 All 32 Scottish local authorities were able to provide the CPO unit level data in each of the years 2013-14 to 2019-20. Renfrewshire Council were not able to supply the 2020-21 data in sufficient time for inclusion in this bulletin and so estimated 2020-21 figures have been used for that area.

A.4 After the introduction of the CPO, information on the legacy orders (community service, probation and supervised attendance orders) was phased out of the aggregate return. Due to the small numbers involved, recent years' returns have not collected information on the number of legacy orders commenced and terminated. These numbers are estimated to be fairly small and do not affect trends observed across the years.

A.5 As a result of the change from the legacy orders to community payback orders, it is important to note that comparability between the data for subsequent years may be affected by the demographic characteristics of those most likely to complete a community payback order during the first few years of implementation. Orders which finished during the early years after they were introduced tended to be lower-tariff orders which generally took less time to complete than those which finished in later years.

A.6 Figures in this bulletin are extracted from live criminal justice social work information management systems and may differ slightly from those published previously as administrative systems are updated. The statistics presented reflect information on activity in the financial year 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021. They therefore reflect any changes to social work activity that may have resulted from the extension to the presumption against short custodial sentences, from three months to 12 months, for offences committed on or after 4 July 2019.

A.7 Revisions are flagged up in the publication at the time but not in future publications. The live tables, including earlier data at sub-Scotland level, on the Scottish Government crime and justice statistics website may be revised at any point if required, and revisions are highlighted in the relevant table.

A.8 As a result of information provided by local authorities with their 2020-21 unit returns, some revisions were made to the 2019-20 and (to a lesser extent) earlier years' data. These revisions were mainly a result of:

a. The inclusion in the 2020-21 data of orders which were in existence before the 2020-21 year but which had erroneously not been included in earlier years' data returns, and

b. Some orders which were previously advised in the 2019-20 returns as being in existence at the end of that year but which had actually been completed/ terminated before then. Some authorities advised of substantial numbers of CPOs falling into this category, due mainly to orders not being closed off on their IT systems.

As a result of these changes, the total for CPO terminations in 2019-20 has been revised upwards by around 300 (up two per cent), with CPOs in existence at 31 March 2020 revised downwards by around 300 (down two per cent).

A.9 In this bulletin, the calculation of successful completion rates for community payback orders and drug treatment & testing orders (Table 2) is calculated as follows. The number of successful completions and early discharges are divided by the total orders terminated less orders which were transferred out of a local authority.

A.10 Figures in this bulletin on the number of new orders commenced are not collected on the same basis as those published in the criminal proceedings bulletins. This is due to differences in the unit of analysis (cases versus orders) and criminal proceedings data referring to the court rather than the local authority implementing the order.

A.11 The data obtained from local authorities comes from recording systems which they use for case management and for internal monitoring. Information on personal characteristics such as gender and ethnicity are taken directly from these systems. While recording practices may vary across local authorities, it is likely that the recording of gender and ethnicity will include a mixture of self-identified values and values as perceived by the justice professional recording the information, for example a case worker.

A.12 While the data is considered of good quality, administrative data of this type will be subject to some degree of error which may arise in any large scale recording system. Therefore the data has been quality assured as far as practicable through a series of validation processes before publication.

A.13 The aggregate return includes electronic checks to notify local authorities of inconsistencies within the data. In the case of substantial changes since the previous year, the local authority is asked to confirm the figures are correct. Once data returns from all authorities have been received, further analysis is carried out to detect any major changes to figures over recent time periods.

A.14 The unit level collections for community payback and drug treatment & testing orders include automatic checks built into the data loading system so that errors in information provided are flagged up at an early stage for correction. The data are checked for accuracy by internal statistical staff. Checks are also made to ensure there is consistency between 2020-21 and earlier years' data.

A.15 Additional datasets at local authority level are available on the Scottish Government website.



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