Justice Social Work Statistics In Scotland: 2022-23

This publication presents national-level information on justice social work activity in Scotland. It 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

The annual aggregate justice social work return for local authority justice social work services was introduced for 1999-00. It covered criminal justice social work reports (as they are now known), community service orders and probation orders. The content and format of the return has changed over time. This is 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, see following paragraph)
  • bail information and supervision (2003-04, new information added 2022-23)
  • 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 onwards, see following paragraph)
  • fiscal work orders (2015-16)
  • structured deferred sentences (2018-19).

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 was to enable analysis of the process and outcomes for individual orders, which is not feasible through a collection of aggregate tables. This has allowed scope for looking at how each order progresses and provides more detailed information on outcomes. All 32 Scottish local authorities have been able to provide the CPO unit level data in each of the years 2013-14 to 2022-23.

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.

Figures in this publication are extracted from live justice social work information management systems. The statistics presented for the most recent year reflect information on activity in the financial year 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023. Figures for earlier years may differ slightly from those published previously – see later in this Annex for examples of revisions.

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

As a result of information provided by local authorities with their 2022-23 unit returns, some revisions were made to the 2021-22 data and, to a lesser extent, earlier years’ data. The main reasons for these revisions were:

  • The inclusion in the 2022-23 data of orders which were in existence before the 2022-23 year, but which had been excluded from earlier years’ data returns in error, and
  • Some orders which were previously advised in the 2021-22 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. This was due mainly to orders not being closed off on their IT systems.

As a result of these changes, the total for CPO terminations in 2021-22 has been revised upwards by around 300 (3 per cent). CPOs in existence on 31 March 2022 was revised downwards by around 400 (3 per cent).

In this publication, successful completion rates for community payback orders and drug treatment & testing orders are 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. Similarly, the proportion revoked due to breach or review are calculated by dividing by the number of orders terminated which were not transferred out.

Figures in this publication on the number of new orders commenced are not collected on the same basis as those published in the criminal proceedings publications. This is partly due to differences in the unit of analysis (cases versus orders). In addition, criminal proceedings data refer to the court rather than the local authority implementing the order.

The data obtained from local authorities comes from recording systems which are used 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.

Administrative data will always be subject to some degree of error that arises in any large scale recording system. The data in this publication has, however, been quality assured as far as practicable. This is done through a series of validation processes before publication. As a result, the data is considered of good quality.

The aggregate return includes electronic checks to notify local authorities of inconsistencies within the data. Where there have been big changes since the previous year, the local authority is asked to confirm the figures are correct. Once data returns from all authorities are in, some further analysis is carried out. This helps to detect any major changes to figures over recent time periods.

The unit level collections for CPOs and DTTOs include automatic checks built into the data loading system. This identifies errors in the information at an early stage for correction by local authority staff. The data is then checked for accuracy by the Scottish Government statistical team. Checks are also made to ensure there is consistency between 2022-23 and earlier years’ data.

In some parts of this publication, ratios are calculated per 10,000 people in the Scottish population. The population numbers used in these calculations are mid-year estimates for the appropriate year, published on the National Records of Scotland website. For example, a ratio for the 2020-21 data would be calculated using the mid-year population estimates at 30 June 2020. Population estimates at 30 June 2021 are used for data for both 2021-22 and 2022-23, as estimates at 30 June 2022 were not available at the time of publishing this data. While numbers have been published from the 2022 Census, these were only available by specific age groups and the groups in question did not enable the extraction of data for ages 16 to 70 used commonly throughout this publication.

There are additional datasets at local authority level on the Scottish Government website and also on the Scottish Government's open data platform.

England, Wales and Northern Ireland have different judicial systems. This makes comparing information on justice social work statistics unfeasible. Statistical information on their judicial systems can be found at:

There are a range of other statistics on the Scottish judicial system:


Email: justice_analysts@gov.scot

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