Information

Evaluation of the Community Reintegration Project

This is an evaluation of the Community Reintegration Project (CRP), which formed part of the Scottish Government’s wider Reducing Reoffending Programme (RRP) and focused on addressing the needs of offenders serving prison sentences between six months and less than four years.


3 Practitioner Views and Experiences of the CRP Process

3.1 This chapter moves from a descriptive account of how the CRP was implemented in each setting to an exploration of the views and experiences of those involved in its delivery. It concentrates on what might be regarded as the core CRP activities outlined in the original project guidance (and expressed as outputs in the CRP logic model). The chapter examines practitioner views and experiences in relation to key stages of the CRP process and delivery of key tasks, the CRP paperwork and information requirements, and the adequacy of the training and resources associated with the project.

3.2 The emphasis of the chapter is on the prison-based stages of the CRP process. This reflects the concentration of both CRP and evaluation activity. The views and experiences presented are those of staff from SPS, CJSW and, to a limited extent, the SCS. Offender views and experience are largely addressed in relation to outcomes in Chapter 5.

3.3 We will argue that, despite a general consensus among all practitioner groups that more should be done to address reoffending amongst short-term offenders, support for the CRP was undermined by concern about specific aspects of the process and, in particular, by dissatisfaction with the paperwork and training associated with the project.

The CRP process: refining the pathway

3.4 The CRP process was fairly closely structured, with defined activities and associated paperwork, and - despite general support for the concept of throughcare for short-term offenders - there were mixed views about these more detailed aspects of the process. Some of the issues raised by interviewees were technical; some were more wide-reaching but all are relevant to the way the CRP is operating. Issues covered here include: the transfer of the CJSW report; the defined CRP stages; making referrals; the CRP paperwork and information recording.

Transfer of the CJSW report

3.5 The CJSW report was seen as integral to the Stage 3 Comprehensive Screen interview, providing background for the PO and the basis for discussion and challenge. The CRP process, thus, incorporated the transfer of an electronic copy of the report from the sentencing court to the receiving prison (HMP Perth or HMP Cornton Vale - convicted offenders are not generally sent directly to Edinburgh and Greenock but are transferred there from Cornton Vale). An electronic version was required so it could be saved and made available to staff via PR2. Direct transfer from the court was intended to ensure that reports were available without delay at the beginning of the process. Requesting a copy of the report from CJSW was regarded as a secondary route for obtaining a report when one was not forthcoming from the court.

3.6 Feedback from SPS staff during the early phase of CRP indicated that CJSW reports were not being provided by the sentencing court in a substantial proportion of cases with implications for carrying out the needs assessment process as originally envisaged. Follow-up work by the Scottish Government project manager in the latter half of 2013 established that, in a significant proportion of cases, particularly in relation to male offenders, there was simply no CJSW report requested by the court, meaning that this part of the CRP process could not be fulfilled.

3.7 The monitoring data collected during the latter period in which the project operated and after the issue of absent reports had been followed up provides fuller information on the provision of CJSW reports during the period October 2013 to March 2014. The figures show that in roughly a fifth of cases (22%) there was no CJSW report prepared, in a third of cases (34%) the report was provided by the courts, in a further third (36%) the report was provided by CJSW and in a small proportion of cases (8%), a report was apparently prepared but was not provided to SPS by either the courts or CJSW. Thus, the data suggest that SPS had access to a CJSW report as envisaged in around two thirds of cases, with half coming from the courts as originally proposed, and half from CJSW. The small proportion of cases where no report is prepared for the court means there is only limited scope to increase the availability of reports to the prisons further.

3.8 Given the importance of the CJSW reports to the process and the value of ensuring an efficient process for receiving them, interviews with court staff explored their experience of the transfer process and their perceptions of the issues which contributed to their non-transfer. Staff indicated a number of issues, although the significance of some of these had reduced as the project progressed and the Scottish Government and SCS staff took action to address the problem:

  • There had been a lack of familiarity with the requirement among court staff (particularly those dealing with women CRP participants) since it arose relatively infrequently, and there was some initial confusion about who exactly was responsible for ensuring that the report was transferred (e.g. the court clerk or the minute taker).
  • There had been a lack of understanding among some court staff about why the transfer was required.
  • There were occasional oversights by staff following the completion of a court sitting, in the context of a range of other tasks to be undertaken - one court reported adding the task to their own end of court checklist, and the longer-term option of flagging up on the SCS's organisation-wide system was raised.

3.9 Staff from different courts indicated that they generally followed a practice of sending CJSW reports as pdf files, created by scanning hard copies of the reports. There were two practices here: scanning reports for those given a custodial sentence after the hearing or scanning all reports routinely prior to the court hearing. The latter approach seemed to make it more likely that the transfer of the report was treated as a routine part of court practice.

3.10 Staff raised three issues in the context of any continuation of the requirement to transfer CJSW reports from the court to the prison:

  • Staff highlighted the fact that the courts did not know definitively which prison someone was being sent to. While this was not an issue in the course of the pilot, it might become more of an issue if the requirement was to be extended to all cases.
  • There were data protection concerns in relation to emailing sensitive personal information.
  • Despite guidance that reports should be in pdf format, there was uncertainty in one court area as to whether a Word or pdf version of the report was required and clarification was sought on this.

3.11 Staff also questioned the general role of the courts in the CRP process. Court staff in one area explained that a hard copy of the report - if one was prepared for the court - would generally be sent with the warrant accompanying the offender to the receiving prison. They suggested that it might be easier for the receiving prison to scan this or for the electronic version of the report to be requested from and sent by the relevant CJSW office. Certainly, prisons and CJSW staff reported good working arrangements for requesting and providing reports when one was not forthcoming from the court. CJSW offices were in some cases able to provide previously prepared reports, even if one was not available in relation to the current sentence.

3.12 It was clear from the interviews that initial internal communication with court staff had been too focused on the task rather than its wider purpose. Staff reported that they only became aware of the CRP and the purpose of sending the report in the latter stages of the project and, even then, were not fully convinced of the value of their role in the process, as opposed to a direct transfer from CJSW to the prison, or scanning of hard copies reports in the prison. Experience to date suggests that there may be merit in reconsidering the role of SCS in the process. However, should their role continue, it will be important that staff are fully aware of and understand their part in the process, that arrangements are as streamlined as possible to facilitate transfer, and that a national approach to the task is agreed, and built into SCS's standard working practices.

The stages of the CRP pathway

3.13 Staff (SPS and to a lesser extent CJSW) offered a range of views on the individual activities which form part of the CRP process: these are addressed in turn below.

Immediate Needs Screen (Stage 2)

3.14 The Immediate Needs Screening (incorporating the SPS Core Screen) is carried out in the first few days in custody. This follows the process carried out for all offenders on arrival at prison in identifying needs (part 2a), but those eligible to take part in CRP are offered the opportunity to do so at this point (part 2b). A small number of interviewees commented on this stage in the process.

3.15 At Cornton Vale, this responsibility lay with admissions staff and there had been issues with staff there not completing the correct paperwork for those eligible for the project, which meant that this then had to be followed up by an administrative worker. This was identified as a problem associated with new officers coming into the admission role (e.g. as a result of staff movement within the prison).

3.16 At Perth, it was decided to carry out Stage 2b as a separate task. From mid 2013, this has been carried out by staff in the Link Centre in the couple of days following admission to the prison rather than as part of the standard admissions process. This offered two perceived benefits: first, the Link Centre staff had greater familiarity with the process than admissions staff and were able to take a more proactive approach to promoting the scheme; second, it was carried out at a potentially more conducive time and in a potentially more conducive atmosphere for the offender, away from the stress of the initial admissions process. Figures derived from the monitoring data indicate that this change of approach has coincided with an upturn in engagement with the CRP process at HMP Perth.

3.17 In looking ahead, the experiences at the two prisons indicate some issues associated with awareness of the CRP across the staffing body during the project, and scope for optimising engagement if the initial CRP offer is made by appropriately briefed staff at an appropriate time.

Comprehensive Screen (Stage 3)

3.18 The Comprehensive Screen was originally planned to take place within the first 10 days in custody. SPS staff were of the view that this was too soon following someone's arrival in prison and offenders were not necessarily ready to engage with the process in a constructive way:

"I've seen it and they're just not thinking straight at all. And they just bombard them whatever, with, you need this, you need this, you need this when you're in here." SPS7

3.19 Those serving a first sentence, in particular, were often disorientated and adjusting to the prison environment; many offenders were also still in an unstable state because of addiction issues. Interviews with offenders provided support for this view. One indicated, for example, that "everything was a bit much to take in…it was a bit of a blur" (OP14).

3.20 In response to feedback based on the experience of staff - and with the agreement of the Steering Group, subject to certain monitoring provisions - the Comprehensive Screen was moved back to within 28 days of arrival in prison.

3.21 Timing aside, specific comments on the Comprehensive Screen were broadly positive, particularly in respect of the use of the CJSW report, with staff reporting that they found this to be a useful tool in getting to know the offender and in informing the needs assessment process:

"…I think it gives you an idea of what the prisoner's been like at that time, what's led to their crime, because it obviously gives you information on their family background or substance misuse…I would read it before I interviewed the prisoner, just so that I had so that if what they're saying, you can see that it does tie up… I think it gives you a good basis to move forward with the prisoner… you get a bit more of an understanding of the person." SPS19

3.22 This PO also indicated that the requirement to consult the CJSW report had changed their general approach to dealing with short-term offenders in that they would not previously have given much consideration to the offence and background of this group of individuals.

3.23 While most SPS staff were positive about the use of the CJSW report, one reported that its use as part of the Comprehensive Screen could be problematic if the offender disagreed with the content:

"For instance, as an example, somebody had been described as being non-communicative or that [they had a] chaotic lifestyle, 'I'd disagree with that, that didnae happen!' 'Oh right really, okay!' You're well within your rights to disagree with that. Then what? It's quite difficult because as a personal officer your prisoner has to trust that you believe them whether you do or you don't so then it's the challenging and the understanding how the prisoner feels because there is an element that the writer has met them once! So it's quite difficult…" SPS9

3.24 The fact that no CJSW report was available in a proportion of cases (see para 3.7) was noted by SPS staff as an issue, although it was generally agreed that this situation had improved. There were also comments, however, indicating that SPS staff did not always know where to access CJSW reports.

3.25 Others who had reservations about the Comprehensive Screen (Stage 3) felt either that it tended not to highlight many new issues beyond those already captured at the Stage 2 screening or that new needs were more likely to come to light during the Standard Review (at Stage 4), once a relationship had been established between the offender and PO.

"I would argue the monthly reviews thereafter become more and more important because you're going to get more out of your prisoner as that trust is built up and as they realise that this guy's actually here to help me. The process itself is very much geared up to, in my opinion, the Stage 3, which is where the personal officer comes in…but I would argue, over the course of time and they've built up trust and getting to know each other, you'll have more needs come forward at the monthly reviews." SPS16

3.26 This view aligned with the general view expressed by other SPS staff who felt that it took time to develop a level of trust with offenders which allowed them to open up about issues affecting their lives. This perhaps highlights the importance of seeing the Comprehensive Screen as the start of a process of ongoing needs assessment and review, rather than as an end itself.

Standard and Summary Reviews (Stages 4 and 5)

3.27 Stage 4 meetings (Standard Reviews) attracted a limited amount of comment from interviewees. As noted above, a small number of interviewees saw this as the key phase of the process for identifying needs, once an offender was settled into prison life and the PO was getting to know the individual. In terms of the frequency of the reviews there were two views on this: firstly that a monthly review (the frequency indicated in the CRP guidance) was 'about right' or 'not unrealistic'; and secondly that reviews should instead be undertaken on an 'as required' basis responding, for example, to a change in circumstances. There was also a view that this stage of the process should be used to review interaction and activity over the previous month and that the recording requirements should involve capturing this in a narrative form. This reflected a more general dissatisfaction with the tick-box format of the forms as discussed further in paras 3.46 to 3.54 below.

The pre-release meeting

3.28 It was envisaged that the pre-release meeting would take place four or five weeks prior to release and that the meeting would be used to agree a plan for the offender's release, with identification of appropriate community services and support. At three of the prisons, the pre-release meeting or an additional CJSW meeting was typically held two or three weeks prior to the date of liberation. It thus appears that a consensus has developed about the need for a meeting as close as possible to release, because of the possibility that offender needs might emerge or change (e.g. an anticipated housing arrangement may break down). As one CJSW interviewee explained:

"… given the chaotic nature of a lot of the guys, six weeks is a lifetime, d' you know? … What we've tried to do is see them the week or the fortnight before they get out. That's been really successful…" CJSW5

3.29 This adaptation might, therefore, be usefully incorporated into the process on a more formal basis.

3.30 Representation at the pre-release meeting was a key issue for CJSW interviewees. Those present at the meeting typically comprised the offender, a prison officer (though not necessarily the offender's PO) and a CJSW support worker. Relevant POs were not always able to attend because of shift patterns, leave and other commitments, although there were reports of POs coming in on days off for such meetings. The absence of appropriate POs caused some frustration amongst CJSW workers who did not find that substitute officers could always make a useful contribution to the meeting; however, alongside this, CJSW workers also spoke positively of meetings where POs had attended and been able to provide valuable input to the meeting:

"…it's very beneficial to have their Personal Officer there... We've had a few good ones … and they can [say] 'What about this? What about the problems with your family?' - something like that - which they're not always forthcoming in telling you." CJSW6

3.31 More generally, CJSW workers recognised that prison staff had an existing relationship with individual offenders and that their attendance at meetings could be helpful in providing a reassuring presence.

3.32 There was also evidence of POs themselves valuing the opportunity to attend such meetings and contribute to the reintegration process:

"It's good for me to hear them discussing about what happened when she was out last. … it's good for me to speak to social work, you know, and, and input how that person's been doing well in prison and if I've got any comments how I think they should be doing things when they're out. It's just, it's good to see, I've only done a couple but it's good to see the other side from when they're out of prison as well, which we don't get to see enough of." SPS5

3.33 The involvement of an officer who dealt with vulnerable offenders at one prison at such meetings also attracted positive comment. One CJSW worker described how the officer had been instrumental in securing the attendance of other agencies and how she and the officer had worked together at the meeting to arrive at a plan for release.

3.34 Attendance by other agencies at pre-release meetings did not, however, appear to be particularly common, although one SPS interviewee said it was something they were aware of and were working to address. CJSW representatives cited a small number of examples where other agencies, particularly drugs workers, had been involved, providing the opportunity for effective discussion and planning for release. However, the process for including other agencies in these meetings did not seem very consistent or clear. At one prison the designated PO or hall manger notified relevant agencies of meetings; at another a CJSW worker reported notifying prison drugs workers of the meetings although they did not often attend; at another site, a CJSW worker reported instances where she had alerted the drugs worker to a forthcoming meeting which had allowed her to make arrangements to attend. A number of SPS and CJSW interviewees felt that ensuring attendance of appropriate people would be one way of enhancing the value of the pre-release meeting.

Non-completion of CRP stages

3.35 The monitoring data indicated that a significant proportion of scheduled CRP meetings do not go ahead as planned. This phenomenon was also recognised by staff (SPS and CJSW), who indicated a number of factors related to offender motivation which they saw as contributing this situation, and leading to non-attendance:

  • Offender apathy on the day of a particular scheduled meeting;
  • Offender preference for other activities on the day of scheduled meeting;
  • Offenders not wishing to spend time waiting in the Link Centre (where this was used as a meeting venue) for a range of reasons (e.g. the availability of more attractive options; the wish to avoid the risk of intimidation from other inmates);
  • Offenders disengaging (informally) from the process once they felt their (practical) needs had been met.

3.36 CJSW staff also indicated that in their experience many offenders had low levels of awareness of CRP and/or low levels of motivation to engage from the outset, and that this was compounded by prisons opting to engage people on the scheme initially and keep them on the scheme subsequently, rather than facilitating formal disengagement. This was felt to be a particular issue at Perth where the CJSW team continued to schedule meetings with participants in the absence of formal disengagement resulting in high levels of non-appearance at meetings (as indicated by the monitoring data).

3.37 The issue of offender motivation is discussed further in Chapters 4 and 5. However, it was also recognised by POs and managers that SPS staff also had a role in making the CRP stages happen, and that staff not prioritising the task or taking an active role in encouraging people to take part in meetings could also be a factor. Here the evaluation found that different sites followed different managerial practices in addressing this. The administrative worker in one prison sent reminders to hall managers about scheduled activities which had not taken place. In another site staff had access to a database indicating when tasks were due, and the hall manager took an active role in prompting staff and following up the reasons for non-completion; elsewhere there was a more informal approach to prompts between the manager and PO. The strategies in place will all offer possible lessons as to the steps that might be taken to help ensure that CRP tasks are prioritised and carried out.

3.38 There was, however, also a view amongst some hall staff that there was no organisational reason for CRP tasks not to be carried out, although they acknowledged there may sometimes be a delay because of leave or shift patterns. One of the prisons appeared to follow a practice of allocating tasks to staff other than individual POs to get round this, and one interviewee felt that the CRP information held on PR2 allowed meetings to go ahead effectively in this way. However, this may not be an optimal arrangement if done on a regular basis as it may not support the sort of continuity of relationship (in this case the PO-offender relationship) which appears helpful to maintaining offender engagement in throughcare. This is explored further in Chapter 5.

Summary of views on the individual stages

3.39 Within the context of general support for a staged approach to needs assessment, the key messages emerging from the evaluation appear to be around refining the timing of the first and last interventions, and ensuring the right people are involved at each stage, whether that be appropriately briefed staff at the first stages of the process, or specific POs (where possible) and relevant agencies at the latter stages; and working to ensure meetings go ahead as planned. For those issues more readily within the control of the prison, there was already positive action in evidence in adapting the process in terms of timings in particular, and a number of different supervisory strategies were in place to help ensure CRP stages went ahead successfully.

Making referrals in response to needs

3.40 The CRP process involves SPS staff making appropriate referrals to agencies and support services in response to identified offender needs. SPS interviewees indicated that these most commonly related to housing, addictions and benefits. The evaluation identified a range of approaches to making referrals, both within and between prisons, with most POs describing their role in relation to the CRP as being similar to their non-CRP role: they made referrals by encouraging offenders to make self-referrals; by highlighting for the Link Centre to pick up and refer on to appropriate agencies; or by raising referrals directly with agencies on PR2. The approach adopted was influenced by the PO's understanding of their role in relation to the CRP, as well as their existing knowledge and competence in relation to making referrals.

3.41 In relation to understanding of their role, for example, some POs considered that it was their job to complete the CRP forms but not personally to raise or follow up the referrals. Where this practice was followed, there was nevertheless concern that this approach reduced the extent to which staff felt involved in the process and the likelihood of them following up on behalf of offenders.

3.42 In relation to knowledge and expertise, there was an indication that not all staff knew how to make referrals on PR2 or were confident in doing so. A manager highlighted that knowledge in using PR2 was an issue and that his preference was for Link Centre staff to put referrals on the system to ensure this was done correctly. Another manager commented on the use of paper referrals which could be overlooked and suggested it was preferable that referrals were made directly on PR2 to be picked up in the Link Centre and passed on to relevant staff or agencies.

3.43 Practices varied in relation to following up referrals: most often this was done via the Link Centre, usually by phone, although there were some instances of POs following up directly with services and agencies. Although it is possible to track referrals on PR2, there was a suggestion that not all staff knew about this - one PO indicated he had only recently become aware of this.

3.44 Mostly, though, there was what could be described as a 'hands off' approach once an agency referral was made. However, whether or not an agency had a presence and a profile within a prison appeared to be a factor here. POs appeared to have more direct knowledge of and dealings with such agencies, with Shine, Circle and housing representatives all mentioned in this context.

3.45 The experience of staff as reported in interviews suggest that referrals are raised in a range of ways and that some staff at least may approach this task in a fairly 'transactional' manner; i.e. they do not take full ownership in pursuing referrals on behalf of offenders. Thus, there appears to be scope to develop a more consistent approach to referrals resulting from the CRP process. This might involve clarifying expectations of the staff role, and encouraging staff to take ownership of the process, as well as ensuring staff have the necessary knowledge and skills in terms of making and following up referrals on PR2, all with implications for staff training (an issue discussed further in paras 3.55 to 3.69 below)

CRP paperwork and information recording

3.46 The CRP paperwork and procedures for information recording attracted significant comment, with widespread dissatisfaction amongst POs with the forms used for recording the outcome of CRP meetings with offenders, and the process for uploading these to PR2. One PO commented as follows, expressing the views put forward by other SPS colleagues:

"I'm not a fan of the forms. I think they are quite poor. I think they could be re-looked at"…He continued describing his experience of the process for uploading the forms: "…So maybe that could be rejigged. And this having to do it there, and then you've got to save it there, and then, from there, you've got to go into PR2 and then attach a document... and then you go to do it, and ... oh, it's not been opened up, so we have to then go into his community integration plan to kick-start that …and then you've got ...and it's just a kerfuffle…" SPS14

3.47 A common view was that there were too many different forms and staff were also unhappy about the effort involved in completing paper forms, typing up and uploading the information onto PR2:

"What's the logic of doing paperwork when it can all be done electronically?" SPS13

3.48 There was evidence of local variations and adaptations to the information rerecording system at both organisational and individual levels. As noted above one prison had adopted a PR2 based recording system which staff were positive about; one used an administrative resource to type up handwritten forms submitted by POs; and another interviewee elsewhere noted the practice of adopting a narrative approach to the Stage 4 reviews, rather than using the tick boxes on the standard CRP form. The use of administrative support helped keep information recording up to date, but there was a concern that it introduced scope for transcribing errors, and - more importantly - reduced the level of PO 'ownership' of the process. Generally, though, there was a view that the information recording process needed to be 'streamlined' and/or more closely aligned with the PR2-based ICM process which some staff were familiar with.

3.49 In relation to the design of the forms in particular, SPS staff were often critical of the prescriptive format, which many felt encouraged a 'tick box' approach to staff-offender interaction and needs assessment. This was seen as not sitting comfortably with the more personal approach which they adopted in relation to their wider PO duties:

"…the way the forms are, it's very easy to just go tick, tick, tick." SPS6

"It really just is a paper exercise for us. That's all I feel this is for me is a paper exercise and that's it." SPS1

3.50 This officer went on to describe how the paperwork contributed to their perception of CRP as a process in which they did not have an integral role; rather, they saw themselves as providing information to feed in to a process which operated outwith the normal PO-offender relationship:

"…once I do this it goes away … and that's it, I don't know [what happens next]". SPS1

3.51 Another officer outlined how people may be able to complete the CRP paperwork without engaging with the offender in any substantive way:

"Some people maybe wouldn't even bother interviewing the prisoner, they'd just be like that, 'Yeah, yeah. Oh, she's engaging with that. She's engaging with that. Yeah. I know she's not been engaging so more referrals made', but not said to the prisoner, 'Do you want these referrals? Do you feel you need these issues, because -?' And the first one obviously is questions about, 'Have you seen the criminal justice report?' So you know that you're supposed to discuss it with the prisoner, but then for the form, some people will just, 'Oh, just say yes, or no'." SPS5

3.52 There were a number of specific issues reported with how some staff were completing the forms, including reported examples of people cutting and pasting narrative content from one form to the next, and completing either the tick boxes or the narrative box but not both. More generally, some staff appeared unclear about the expectations about how they should complete the forms:

"As I say, because it's the first time I'd done a comprehensive one and, at the end, I wasn't sure if what I was putting in was entirely correct… And I'm writing that, and I'm thinking, 'Should I actually be writing this?', but I thought, 'No. That's what I want to put.'" SPS3

3.53 It is worth noting that the views on the forms and information recording requirements were expressed most strongly by frontline staff but were also echoed by supervisors and managers who recognised the impact this could have on the success of the process:

"If we have forms that are clunky for want of a better word, the process of doing it, that then demotivates staff as well. The easier something is for staff to do, the more likely it is to be done." SPS6

3.54 The negative perception of the forms and procedures for information recording suggests that this is something which requires attention to ensure it does not hinder any future development of throughcare for short-term offenders. Staff comments indicated more favourable attitudes towards the ICM recording system and there may be lessons to be learnt here. More generally, the evaluation suggests that more work is required to arrive at a streamlined set of documentation (paper or electronic) which staff can see supports and adds value to the work they do with offenders, and that appropriate training and accessible guidance needs to be provided to ensure staff are carrying out their duties in a consistent and confident way.

Staff views on training, support and supervision

3.55 When the CRP was initially launched in spring 2012, introductory presentations were held at the relevant prisons. In spring 2013, at the point at which the project was given additional resource within the Scottish Government, additional sessions were held for SPS staff. In addition, two events were held at the SPS College, bringing together staff from SPS and CJSW involved in delivering CRP. At a local level, managerial staff in prisons also offered some supplementary support to staff on a proactive and/or reactive basis.

3.56 The interviews explored staff views of the adequacy of this training and the extent to which staff felt equipped to carry out CRP-related work.

3.57 Overall, while staff were broadly aware of the purpose of the CRP, the evaluation found a low level of knowledge and understanding of the specifics of the CRP process among many frontline SPS staff. Although there was a minority view that the process did not merit significant training input, it was more common for staff to express dissatisfaction with the limited extent and character of the training and support they had received.

3.58 Despite training having been offered, some staff simply reported not having received any - "It's null and void. I've had no training" (SPS2) - and had effectively worked the process out for themselves. Others did recall attending either the original or the more recent training sessions but felt that these had been somewhat cursory:

"It was…here's your forms, they are on the computer here, you can print them off…it was about half an hour, it was quite poor…" SPS17

3.59 More generally, there was a view that early communication about the project had been inadequate - in particular, that it was announced without appropriate consultation or advance warning:

"…It's just, so this is happening. You're the pilot and you're it... stuff we were doing anyway, but different forms; it wasn't discussed with staff." SPS7

3.60 Staff also commented on a lack of routinely available guidance on the process with a number of interviewees suggesting that a checklist or flow chart or something similar would be a useful aid to their work. It is worth noting that staff at Perth had developed such a chart reflecting the process in their own local environment.

3.61 Residential managers also questioned the level of training provided for staff, and indicated that they themselves were training others based on limited knowledge, and staff acknowledged the likely impact of this in leading to inconsistencies in practice:

"There was no actually formal training. I think that that's helped create issues they're finding with each site, it's sort of different in doing things, because a lot of it was left to our own interpretation on things." SPS2

3.62 It is possible to see how the narrow geographic focus of the project has been a compounding factor here, in the women's prisons in particular. Because of the low numbers going through the programme, any initial training was not reinforced by sufficient on the job experience to allow the process to become properly embedded and individual members of staff lacked the exposure to the process needed to develop expertise. Further, what seemed a theoretically sound approach of identifying individual staff to act as CRP 'champions' in their area proved unsustainable because these staff moved on before their colleagues had gained enough experience to take on the process.

3.63 Some staff were clear about the implications of the perceived inadequacies in staff understanding and training for the success of the process as a whole:

"How can someone who has never seen one of these [the CRP forms] be expected to go through it with a prisoner and that is basically the size of it…" SPS2

"I think if they've not got a clear understanding of what a particular project's aims are then they can't advise the prisoners the best that they can." SPS11

3.64 In addition to CRP-specific training issues, interviewees also noted other training and competency issues which impacted on their ability or the ability of others to deliver the CRP process effectively. These related to using PR2, making referrals, and knowledge and experience of the ICM process for long-term offenders which some staff indicated provided a useful background to the process.

3.65 SPS staff were not the only group to raise the issue of knowledge and understanding. Court staff offered similar comments:

"I think it's like everything else. If you know why you are having to do something, you can understand it, whereas if it's just a case of 'This is what you have to do' but you don't understand why, then it's…yet another job we've got to do…" CS1

3.66 Here the requirement to ensure transfer of the CJSW report in appropriate cases had been agreed centrally and passed down to sheriff clerks from SCS headquarters, and sheriff clerks had passed on to relevant staff. It was not until the autumn of 2013, however, that staff had understood the background to the request.

3.67 Knowledge and understanding did not, however, appear to be a significant issue for CJSW staff. This group perceived their CRP role to be largely in line with their existing throughcare responsibilities and duties and in that context did not appear to see themselves as having significant training needs:

"It's resettlement by another name…[The aim is to] link people with appropriate services prior to being released as well, as they were ready...The main difference being that there is now a formal pre-release meeting..." CJSW5

3.68 The CRP paperwork did not impact on CJSW to any great extent and they responded to referrals in much the same way as they would have done with previous voluntary requests for throughcare. As such, CJSW staff had generally relied on a combination of project documentation, team briefings and previous experience. Those that had come into post more recently also reported shadowing colleagues. However, there were positive comments from CJSW staff about the training workshops at the SPS College which had brought staff (SPS and CJSW) together, and one support worker suggested that finding out more about the role of prison officers through job shadowing might be beneficial.

3.69 Overall, then, staff training on CRP appears to have been inadequate - especially within prisons, but also to a lesser extent within the courts. Many frontline staff within SPS did not feel they had been involved or engaged at the outset, and thought that the training they had received had conveyed too little detail about the process or rationale for the project. This apparent lack of information and training appears to have had implications for staff buy-in to the CRP process and is something that would need to be addressed in any future development of the project - a theme returned to in Chapter 7.

Staff views of the resourcing of the CRP

Resource implications for the SPS

3.70 As discussed earlier, a range of different SPS staff were involved in delivering the CRP process, including POs, residential managers, other managers (Link Centre/ICM/offender outcome managers), Link Centre staff, and administrative staff. In terms of central administrative support, this was a minor part of the work of the ICM administrative team at Cornton Vale, and the absence of administrative support at other establishments was noted as an issue, particularly at Perth which was dealing with the greatest number of cases (although in late 2013 a dedicated CRP administration resource was provided to assist the process).

3.71 The majority of PO interviewees reported having been responsible for just a small number of CRP cases over the course of the project (typically between one and six, but up to 20). The postcode element of the project design will have been a factor here, particularly at the women's prisons with their larger 'catchment areas' which meant that eligible offenders from specific local authority areas made up only a small proportion of the prison population. Not surprisingly, therefore, residential SPS staff did not report the CRP as having had a significant impact in terms of overall workload. There was also a view articulated by some that the CRP process had had little impact in terms of staff time as "it's what we do anyway".

3.72 However, in relation to dealing with individual cases, POs described challenges in finding the time to carry out and record CRP meetings with offenders. This was a particular issue at HMP Edinburgh where the model operated meant that CRP-related duties were a more significant part of the designated PO's workload. Staff described how they might, for example, be the only member of staff on duty in a particular area and be trying to carry out CRP duties alongside other general duties, or might have to catch up on CRP work after a period of leave. A number of SPS interviewees expressed concern about how residential staff would manage any increased CRP caseload. Any assumptions regarding how CRP duties will be accommodated alongside existing routine work of POs will therefore need to be considered fully and communicated clearly to staff.

Resource implications for CJSW

3.73 For CJSW teams involved in the project, CRP work was concentrated on a small number of workers. While it could be resource intensive for these workers, the nature of the work was similar to existing throughcare work in which they were involved. In Dundee, CJSW resources for male CRP participants had increased from one to two main support workers over the life of the project in response to the demands of the role, with a third worker also contributing to the work of the team. The support workers spent up to two days in HMP Perth each week and were involved in community-based work outwith that. Post-release intensive support work did not feature strongly in the work of the team. Although this was associated with low levels of engagement following release, the direction of cause and effect is perhaps not straightforward here. However, the team was in a transition period with moves underway to spread CRP work across a greater number of staff members in order to increase 'resilience', i.e. to create greater flexibility to accommodate staff absences (leave, sickness etc) and respond to any future increase in community-based work.

3.74 In comparison to the Dundee team dealing with male offenders, the resource implications were different for the teams dealing with women offenders in Dundee and Lanarkshire given the lower numbers of eligible female offenders. In both areas CRP work was accommodated alongside other criminal justice support work, although the team arrangements were somewhat different: in Dundee the support workers were part of a dedicated women offenders team while in Lanarkshire, CRP cases were dealt with by two support workers based in a team dealing with a mixed caseload of justice work for both men and women[15]. Absolute numbers of female CRP participants have been low (as we saw in Chapter 2) and in both areas CRP cases were described as forming a small part of the case load of the individual workers. However, the balance of prison and community-based work appeared to be different for those dealing with women offenders, with interviewees indicating a greater emphasis on resource intensive reintegration work in the community for female compared to male CRP participants. Their prison visits were also done on an ad hoc basis and necessarily involved significant travelling time given the geographic spread of the prisons involved.

Attitudes towards the CRP as a whole

3.75 Taken as a whole, then, views of specific aspects of the CRP process among key practitioner groups were mixed. The structured, staged approach was generally supported but there were concerns about some of the more detailed aspects of how the process had been set up.

3.76 Nevertheless, there was a general consensus that more work needed to be done to address reoffending amongst short-term offenders, that a structured process could play a useful part in that and that the development of stronger links to community services (discussed more fully in Chapter 5) was essential. As such, there was widespread support for the principle of the CRP process, or more frequently for what might be described as a 'CRP-type process'. However, for SPS staff in particular, this was often tempered by criticism of the specific way in which the project was implemented, or by recognition that the CRP was, at best, a work in progress:

"There needs to be something like this in place for all prisoners … it's heading in the right direction." SPS2

"[I]f it's managed properly and it's worked properly with the staff, aye it works. However, CRP I think they are duplicating work we actually do with them. It's not fair on staff and it's not fair on prisoners too" SPS7

"I do believe in throughcare, I think there is a definite need for it, but not necessarily in the capacity it is being done." SPS9

"I've felt the scheme, in theory, is a brilliant thing." SPS14

"It's the way to go…stuff like this is the way to go…but it needs to be streamlined." SPS13

3.77 A range of issues seemed to contribute to what might be seen as a lack of buy-in amongst SPS staff. While the core CRP processes and the perceived lack of information and training as discussed in this chapter appeared to contribute to this general level of dissatisfaction, broader issues such as familiarity with CJSW and community services also seemed to play a part - this is discussed in the following chapter. Interestingly, several POs talked about the need for a process incorporating a clear link to the community to coordinate offender support, but either did not see CRP as offering that mechanism or were unaware of its function in this area.

3.78 Buy-in is clearly important to the long-term sustainability of any process. It is particularly critical in relation to frontline SPS staff given their role in working with offenders and engaging them with the CRP process. It will therefore be important to address the concerns of staff in relation to specific aspects of the process with a view to increasing overall buy-in.

3.79 CJSW staff offered a generally positive assessment of the overall process. Any reservations they had about the process stemmed from the variable experience of linking with the prison and included concerns about routine liaison and communication; the way SPS staff were engaging offenders on the CRP; and attendance of SPS staff at meetings. A wider issue for CJSW staff related to the ability to respond to offender needs on transition to the community. All these issues are discussed in later chapters.

Summary

3.80 Practitioner views about the specifics of the CRP process were mixed. There was general support for a structured approach to needs assessment and for mechanisms for connecting offenders more effectively to external services; but there were also concerns about particular aspects of the CRP as implemented.

3.81 Prison staff generally found it helpful to have access to CJSW reports as part of the needs assessment process and the system for obtaining these now seems to be working effectively, although a significant proportion of reports are, however, sourced on request from CJSW offices rather than being provided automatically by SCS. The need to request reports from CJSW is an additional step in the process and creates a potential delay in providing SPS staff with required information. Given the experience of SCS staff, there may be scope for considering how the transfer of CJSW reports could be optimised.

3.82 There were some issues relating to the systematic identification of eligible offenders (at Stage 2 of the process) but these also appear to have reduced as the project bedded down.

3.83 The Comprehensive Screen (at Stage 3) was generally felt to be useful - particularly if a CJSW report was available - but there was consensus that it should not take place too early, while offenders were still adjusting to being admitted to prison, and that new needs were perhaps more likely to be identified during Standard Reviews (at Stage 4), once a degree of trust had built up between offenders and their PO.

3.84 At three of the prisons, the pre-release meeting (or an additional meeting scheduled with CJSW) was happening closer to the release date as it was felt that the pre-release meeting five weeks before release might miss offender needs that emerged or changed during the subsequent period. Having representation from the relevant PO at the meeting was felt to be very valuable, though was not always possible because of shift patterns and other commitments.

3.85 While lack of offender motivation was seen as a key factor in explaining why scheduled meetings did not go ahead, there was also variation in the extent to which different prisons prioritised or monitored progress on undertaking the stages of the process.

3.86 Not all SPS staff appeared to know how to make referrals on PR2 or were confident in doing so. There was also variation in the extent to which referrals were followed up once made.

3.87 There was significant dissatisfaction among prison staff with the CRP paperwork and procedures for information recording. The CRP forms in particular were criticised for being too dependent on 'tick boxes' and insufficiently integrated with existing electronic systems (such as the PR2-based ICM process). This was felt to demotivate staff and reduce the likelihood that information would be collected accurately or systematically.

3.88 Training and support for staff in relation to the CRP was widely felt to have been inadequate and there seem to have been missed opportunities to launch the project and engage staff effectively at the outset. Despite the training sessions which had been held, some staff indicated that they had received no training, while others felt that the training they had received had lacked detail about the process or rationale for the project.

Contact

Email: Justice Analytical Services

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