Redesigning the Community Justice System: Analysis of Consultation Responses

A written consultation was carried out by the Scottish Government on “Redesigning the Community Justice System” between 20 December 2012 and 30 April 2013. This document reports on the analysis of the responses to the consultation.


This report presents the findings of a written consultation carried out by the Scottish Government on "Redesigning the Community Justice System". The consultation took place between 20 December 2012 and 30 April 2013.

The consultation

A consultation document was issued at the end of 2012, to explore the best means of redesigning the community justice system in Scotland. Three options were described in the consultation document:

  • Option A: An "enhanced CJA model".
  • Option B: A "local authority model".
  • Option C: A "single service model".

The consultation explored 32 questions. Some explored respondents' views of all three options, while the remainder explored their views of specific options and particular aspects of these.

Submissions and respondents

A total of 112 submissions were received. The most common category of respondent was local authorities (22%). Also common were responses from individuals (20%). A range of other types of respondents provided views, including: professional and representative bodies / Trades Unions (15%); third sector organisations (13%); partnerships (9%); regulation, inspection and standards bodies (7%); CJAs (6%); NHS (3%); community councils (2%); other community justice organisations (2%); and government agencies or departments (1%). The consultation generated a very large amount of material and the findings are summarised below.

Overall views of the options

Where clear preferences could be identified, a very small number of respondents expressed a preference for Option A; a much larger number for Option B; and a small number for Option C. Option B was identified most frequently as more likely to meet the key characteristics identified in the consultation in all but 3 of the 15 characteristics highlighted. In these 3 cases (a strong, united voice; an overview of the system as a whole; and ability to follow national / international innovation) Option C was identified most frequently as more likely to meet these. Option B was also identified most frequently as the option more likely to result in the culture change required, as well as to result in improvements in engagement with, and access to, non-justice services.

A number of specific issues relating to all options were also explored. These included whether a statutory duty on local partners would help promote collective responsibility for reducing reoffending. The majority of those whose views could be ascertained believed this to be the case, although several expressed provisos and a large number of respondents also expressed concerns. Potential benefits included, for example: formalising responsibilities; promoting commitment; and identifying roles. Concerns included, for example: the limitations of a duty; potential negative impact; and the variety of partners involved in service delivery.

In terms of whether funding for CJSW services should remain ring-fenced, the majority whose views could be ascertained (and the balance of comments) suggested the most common view was that it should (at least during the transitional period, or in the short term). Perceived reasons included: protection of spending on criminal justice social work; the need for priority; the impact on services and provision; and the risks with removal. Concerns about retaining ring-fenced funding included: administrative and practical issues; restriction of flexibility and innovation; barriers to joint working, integration and full accountability.

A wide range of suggestions about training and development that would be beneficial for practitioners, managers and leaders were made by respondents. The main broad themes were: the nature of training and development considered beneficial (e.g. its overall nature; subject areas; and who should be included); and the means of provision of training and development (e.g. the overall context and general approach; who should provide the training and development; and other requirements). Additional themes included: the overall importance of training and development; and existing training and development issues.

Respondents were asked about the potential for existing organisations to take on a greater role in developing professionals' skills and expertise and the majority whose views could be ascertained, and the balance of comments, suggested positive views of this. Benefits identified included: consistency and a national approach; enabling the use of a range of resources and providers with clarity of roles; provision of an evidence base; integration and links; and best value. The small number of concerns related to: the lack of specialist knowledge; and the current roles and nature of the bodies.

The most common suggestions for other options or permutations focused on further developments to Option B, with the next most common being the suggestion of a fourth Option "D". Among a range of suggested developments to Option B were: the development of the use of community planning partnership (CPP) arrangements; the need for cross-boundary working and strategic commissioning; and the need for a national perspective. Some very detailed suggestions about new options were given, which included suggestions for: arrangements at different levels (national, regional and local); particular partnership arrangements; and an enhanced CJA model or similar.

Views of Option A

A very small number of respondents expressed an overall preference for Option A, but many detailed comments were made. A number of concerns were identified, although some positive aspects were highlighted. These included: strengthening the current model (and specific means of doing this); and the positive role of CJAs to date. Some positive comments were also made on specific aspects of the proposed changes to CJAs. The most common concerns related to: perceived problems with CJAs; bureaucracy; complexity and duplication; disconnection; weaknesses in performance management; accountability; resource implications; and a negative impact on practice and outcomes. Some concerns were also raised with particular aspects of the proposed changes.

Specific aspects of the Option A proposals were also explored, and it was found that views were mixed about appointing a chair and expanding membership, although a range of concerns were highlighted (e.g. bureaucracy, complexity and costs; reduced effectiveness and responsiveness; reduced accountability; potential conflict of interest; and a lack of coterminous boundaries). Where positive comments were made, these focused largely on expanding membership (e.g. collaborative working; shared planning and accountability; and understanding).

In relation to the proposal for all Board members to be recruited through the public appointments system, the majority of comments focused on concerns with this, particularly relating to the impact on local accountability, as well as the nature of skills sought. Positive aspects identified included: the overall impact on the CJA and ways of working; fairness; consistency; addressing conflict of interest; and diversity.

In relation to whether the proposals gave CJAs sufficient levers and powers to reduce reoffending, the majority of comments and views suggested that this was not the case. Where clear views could be ascertained, almost all of the respondents did not believe CJAs should be given operational responsibility for the delivery of CJSW services. This view was reflected in the detailed comments, with the most common relating to a lack of the skills, expertise and knowledge required. There were mixed views of whether CJAs' geographical boundaries should remain the same.

Respondents were asked whether the Scottish Government should retain the current arrangements for training and development, and, where clear views could be ascertained, most expressed a preference for this. This was reflected in comments, with a common theme being the positive role and benefits of the Training and Development Officers; and the benefits of a national approach to some issues. There was also a largely shared view that the arrangements should be reviewed for effectiveness.

A range of suggestions were made about ways of building expertise, capacity and resilience, and ensuring that evidence-based good practice is shared. These focused on suggestions about: structural issues and ways of working (e.g. a national body; particular roles; local arrangements; overall model and approach); review of performance and use of evidence; workforce development; and resources.

Views of Option B

Option B (or a development of this) was the option most commonly preferred by respondents. The most common comments related to: links to CPPs; partnership working; local provision to meet local needs; aspects of service effectiveness; and leadership, direction and accountability. Although a much lower number of respondents identified potential concerns or issues, the most common related to the impact on the overall pattern of provision and consistency of service provision, with others relating to aspects of the means of operation, resources and process of change.

Comments on the impact of Option B on planning and commissioning were most frequently positive (e.g. existing experience and commitment; national outcomes and standards and value for money), as were those relating to good practice (e.g. a close relationship between strategy and operation; connection to other services and holistic support). Those relating to consistency were most frequently negative (e.g. variation in provision and priorities; potential duplication; monitoring difficulties; and challenges for third sector providers).

The majority of those who expressed a clear view suggested that there was still a requirement, in this model, for a regional partnership, or co-ordination role, and this was reflected in the balance of comments. These focused on issues such as: the importance of co-ordination and partnership working; the impact on planning and provision of services; and the value of existing arrangements. The majority of comments made about the impact of reducing reoffending being subsumed within community planning, or other local authority planning structures, focused on a positive impact, or benefits of this. The most common theme related to the roles and responsibilities of those with a part to play in reducing reoffending, their relevance to community planning and local authority activity, and the opportunity to promote collective responsibility and ownership of the issues. The concern raised most frequently related to the level of priority that would be given to community justice issues generally.

Where clear views could be ascertained, most respondents suggested that functions such as programme accreditation, development of good practice, performance management and workforce development should be devolved from the Government to an organisation with the appropriate skills and experience. The main theme among the benefits was the opportunity for national oversight and consistency. There were some concerns about identifying a single agency to do this, as well as with the particular inclusion of performance management and, for some, workforce development.

Views of the proposal to expand the functions of the Risk Management Authority (RMA) to include improving performance were also sought, and the most common focus of comments was upon concerns, particularly: the ability or appropriateness of the RMA to undertake this; and the role of others in performance improvement. Perceived benefits related to the benefits of a national approach and the nature and strengths of the RMA. Views of the proposal to set up a national Scottish Government / CoSLA leadership group were largely positive, particularly in terms of national direction, overview and consistency.

Views of Option C

A small number of respondents expressed an overall preference for Option C, but the most common detailed comments related to concerns. Many respondents, however, whatever their preferred option overall, identified positive aspects of Option C, particularly in terms of consistency, simplification of the structure and a national voice. Other benefits included: accountability, clear leadership and reporting; economies of scale; and alignment to other national organisations. The most common concerns related to links and partnership working between CJSW and other relevant services; as well as: implications for addressing local issues; costs; practical issues; the impact on the pattern of provision; the nature of the organisation; the lack of an evidence base; and the potential negative impact on outcomes, local accountability and staff.

In terms of views of specific aspects of the proposal, the majority of comments on the suggestion to incorporate the functions of the RMA into a new single service identified positive aspects of this, if Option C were chosen. These included: the impact on the overall structure for provision; the impact on some outcomes; and better access for staff to the expertise of the RMA. Among the concerns, the issues raised most frequently related to the potential negative impact on the current role and functions of the RMA; potential loss of independence; and concerns about links to other relevant organisations.

Views of the three Federation grouping in Option C were mixed, although a larger number of respondents identified concerns (e.g. the perceived negative impact on local services and links; the size of the areas; and the lack of evidence to support this) than positive aspects (e.g. coterminosity; and communication between national planning and local delivery).

In terms of views of whether the approach to strategic commissioning and procurement provided a good balance between local and national priorities and needs, the majority suggested that it did not. This was reflected in the pattern of comments, where, although there were some positive comments, a common concern was the perceived nature of the ensuing balance (e.g. with insufficient local focus), along with aspects of the overall approach (e.g. complexity and difficulties of taking account of local priorities).

Where clear views were expressed about whether a statutory duty on local partners and a strong Chief Executive would help facilitate access to mainstream non-justice services, the majority suggested it would not. This was reflected in the pattern of comments. While some respondents suggested that a Chief Executive may have an impact at a national level, and the statutory duty may have some impact on promoting commitment, co-operation, partnership and accountability, the majority of comments focused on concerns. Common themes were the perceived lack of impact of a Chief Executive would have at a local level, and the perceived limitations of a statutory duty.

The majority of comments about the proposal to establish a dedicated community justice unit were positive. The majority of these comments were general expressions of its perceived value, while specific benefits were seen to include: a national, strategic approach; and a positive impact on staff training and skills. Concerns included: negative views about the value of, or need for this; and the costs or nature of provision.

Equality issues, business and third sector impact and other comments

A few respondents expressed the general view that the overall impact of all of the options on equalities issues would be positive, a few stated that there would be no impact (or no significant impact). One expressed overall equality-related concerns. Most, however, made more specific comments.

A common theme was the general equalities requirements of the proposals (e.g. existing duties and legislation; the need for an equality impact assessment before implementation; and other provisions). A further common theme was the implications (positive and negative) of each of the options or specific aspects of proposals most of which focused on Options B and C. Although a number of detailed issues were raised, comments on the equality impact of Option B were largely positive, while comments on the equality impact of C focused largely, on areas of concern.

A further common theme was the need to take account of the impact on, and requirements of particular groups. Those identified included: offenders as a group; families; victims; women; young people; people in remote and rural areas; ethnic minority communities; people with mental health problems; people with addiction issues; and vulnerable adults. Some made general comments on equalities issues (e.g. the importance of, and need to address these; and current gaps).

In relation to the business and third sector impact of the proposals, several respondents argued that there would be a general positive impact, while a slightly smaller number expressed overall concerns about these issues. One respondent argued that there would be no significant impact, and a few stated that the impact was not clear from the information presented. Most respondents, however, rather than providing an overall view, made more specific comments on aspects of the impact on businesses and the third sector.

These included comments on the role of businesses in community justice (e.g. delivery of some services; and working in partnership) and comments on the role of the third sector (e.g. the general importance of this; their involvement in specific types of work; and working in partnership). Comments were also made on the implications of each of the options or specific aspects of the proposals, largely focusing on Options B and C. Although a number of detailed issues were raised, the comments on Option B focused largely on the positive impact of this option. Comments on Option C focused largely on concerns about whether this option would achieve the desired objectives set out in the consultation paper.

A further common theme was the identification of perceived requirements or suggestions. The need for development and strengthening of third sector involvement in the planning, management and delivery of services was highlighted frequently. Several respondents also made comments on developing work with the private sector in terms of the value of this, but concerns were also expressed about services being provided for profit. Among other comments was the view that the proposals should be developed further in relation to these issues.

Many respondents made additional comments outwith the questions. The most common themes were: the consultation itself; the current situation and examples of existing work; the specific options; issues affecting specific groups; and the identification of key characteristics or requirements of a community justice system. A few respondents made comments on specific aspects of the way forward.


Email: Carole Edwards

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