Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Monday 17 August 2015
10:30 a.m.
Spencer Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough

Attendance Details

Councillor F McIntyre (Chair), Councillor L Lewis (Vice Chair); Councillor J Goodchild, Councillor J Hobson, Councillor P Purvis, Councillor Z Uddin and Councillor M Walters.
C Breheny and J Dixon.
Apologies for absence:
Councillor A Hellaoui.
Declarations of interest:

There were no Declarations of Interest made by Members at this point in the meeting.

Item Number Item/Resolution

The Minutes of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel meeting held on 27 July 2015 were submitted and approved as a correct record.


The Scrutiny Support Officer submitted a report providing further information in relation to the above topic and outlining the draft Terms of Reference for discussion.


The Scrutiny Support Officer recapped that the Panel had considered the following information to date:-

  • Introduction and overview of the current topic.
  • MBC departments' contribution to reducing re-offending.
  • Middlesbrough’s response to anti-social behaviour.
  • Prevention of offending and re-offending by young people.

At its meeting on 27 July 2015, the Panel agreed it wished to hear further information in relation to Integrated Offender Management (IOM) and further information in relation to the National Offender Management Service (NOMS). Accordingly, Chief Superintendent G Lang and R Phelan, Head of Rehabilitation and Reoffending at Holme House Prison, were in attendance at the meeting to provide respective information.


R Phelan, Head of Rehabilitation and Reoffending, Holme House Prison (NOMS), made a presentation to the Panel which provided an overview of support provided to offenders in prison to prevent them from re-offending on release. The Panel was advised that the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) ran prison and probation services for adults and provided support to those leaving prison to prevent re-offending.


Members were informed that Holme House Prison was a category B prison, whose function was to serve the Courts and was also charged with releasing prisoners back into their own communities. The Prison mainly served the communities of Durham and the Tees Valley.


The Prison had a maximum capacity of 1,230 beds and around 20% of its population was made up of remand/unsentenced prisoners. The Prison included a 180 bed Vulnerable Prisoner Unit (primarily for sex offenders), therapeutic community and drug recovery wing. There were activity places for all prisoners and 220 full time work places. 24 hour health care was available and included an 'end of life suite' for those who were terminally ill but needed to remain in custody. 85% of prisoners were from the Durham Tees Valley area.

In response to a query, it was clarified that all work places were based inside the prison and that all activity places were also conducted within the prison as it was a closed prison.


The Panel was provided with information in relation to the length of sentences being served by prisoners at Holme House. It was highlighted that around 24% of the current population was serving less than 12 months with around 18-20% being remand prisoners. The majority group of prisoners belonged to those serving four to 10 years. Generally, the prison population at Holme House consisted of approximately 20% remand and non-sentenced prisoners and 80% sentenced prisoners. This was in reverse contract to Durham Prison.


All prisoners must be risk assessed using the Offender Assessment System (OASys), the top four risk factors for prisoners in Holme House were:-

  • Lifestyle and associates.
  • Education, training and employability.
  • Attitudes.
  • Drug misuse.

It was highlighted that Holme House had a contract with Manchester College and offered almost 400 learning places at the prison. This was in addition to the work places available. A steady improvement in literacy had been recognised and specialist help with targeted learning was available for those with learning difficulties.


In response to a query, the Panel was advised that the Prison had a considerable problem with drugs. A drugs and alcohol team worked within the Prison and this was a contracted service provided by Phoenix House. The Team currently had a caseload of around 600 (almost 50% of the prison population), with around 300 on a methadone, or similar, drug substitute programme. Drugs coming into the prison was a major issue with three to four significant finds a week being made. Legal highs were also highlighted as a problem. There were safety issues with some prisoners experiencing violent reactions and attempting to harm themselves or the people around them.


In terms of reconviction probability, the Panel was informed that around 15% of the prison population were at the lowest risk of re-offending. Of this group, around 48% were low risk sexual offences. 8% of the prison population was deemed to be at the highest risk of re-offending. 73% of this group were acquisitive offences.


The probability of re-offending was based on the likelihood of the individual re-offending within two years of release. It was acknowledged that this was difficult to predict and that data had not previously been collected in relation to this, however, it was now being recorded.


An example of a typical working day in Holme House was provided. The day started at 8.00am with final lock up at 7.15pm. It was highlighted that the prison day had gradually contracted due to staffing reductions, etc. The only exception to lock up was the end of life suite which was left unlocked.


The prison offered a diverse range of employment opportunities and each sector delivered a qualification, including:-

  • Industrial laundry (laundry undertaken for own prison, contracts with other prisons, P&O Ferries).
  • Three woodwork/furniture factories (furniture made for prison, hotels, University accommodation).
  • Textile production (productions ranging from boxer shorts to sandbags for MoD).
  • Print shop (printed material for the prison, local church magazine, etc).
  • Land based activities (maintenance of own prison grounds, looking after own poultry).
  • Stores.
  • Industrial cleaning.

During discussion in relation to job places within the prison, the following issues were raised:-


  • It was highlighted that employment within the prison could be a life-changing experience for some prisoners and was often their first experience of employment. The difficulty was converting those jobs into long term employment once the prisoner was released.
  • In response to a query, it was confirmed that prisoners were paid for the work that they did and earned around £30 to £35 per week. The working day was generally 9.00am to 5.00pm and where additional hours of work were required, for example to meet a contract deadline, overtime would be paid accordingly.
  • In terms of selecting the right person for the job, all prisoners went through an engagement programme where they were assessed on academic skills and interests and were then interviewed by the National Careers Service. An action plan was produced and the prisoner would be interviewed by staff from the relevant sector, such as the laundry. If the prisoner was suitable for the available position they would be employed.
  • Reference was made to the 17-24 year age group and the difficulties they experienced in gaining employment once released from prison and it was confirmed that the Offending Rehabilitation Company for the Durham Tees Valley Area was now charged with delivering support.
  • It was queried whether there were prisoners that refused to work. The Panel was advised that this did happen and a review of those prisoners' arrangements would be undertaken, for example certain privileges would be withdrawn such as TV or gym. The withdrawal of privileges would be kept under review and they would continue to be invited to re-engage. It was clarified that sentenced prisoners had no choice and had to work and if they refused to work they would appear before the Governor and given an appropriate punishment.

In addition to the employment places, there were approximately 400 learning places available. The learning programmes were delivered by Manchester College and included the following:-

  • Renewable energy.
  • Construction.
  • Decorating.
  • Basic skills (eg maths, English).
  • IT.
  • Mentoring (some prisoners mentored other prisoners, ie support to obtain accommodation, employment).
  • Distance learning/Open University. (This must be self-funded but the prison would support by allowing access to IT/library, etc).

The prison offered various support programmes to help prisoners, such as:-

  • Self-Change Programme. 
  • Healthy Relationships Programme.
  • Resolve (for violent offenders).
  • Thinking Skills Programme.
  • Healthy Sex Programme.

It was anticipated that around 107 programmes would be completed in the current financial year. The programmes were reported to be very effective and were constantly monitored.


In relation to prisoners released from prison, the Panel was informed that around 25% of leavers went into full time education or employment. 94% would leave with accommodation (it was pointed out that this figure included 'sofa surfing').

The Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) had recently taken over the work of helping released prisoners to find work and it was hoped the quality of outcomes for those ex-prisoners would improve.


The Panel was advised that the prison worked with a range of partners including Durham Tees Valley CRC, PPDG (Pertemps), NEPACS (visitors centre and family support worker), National Careers Service, Manchester College, Phoenix (drugs and alcohol), G4S Healthcare, Job Centre Plus and Stockton Library Service.


In terms of things that could be improved upon, the Panel was informed that links between Through the Gate and workshops could be improved as they did not convert to jobs in the outside world. It was considered that better links could be established with families, creating stronger family support. There were currently three family support workers and this was not sufficient. Improvements were required in reducing the supply of drugs and better motivation of prisoners could be more positive.


The Panel was informed of ongoing projects and plans at Holme House, including the implementation of the Through the Gate project which was a major project in conjunction with Durham Tees Valley CRC. The prison was in the process of developing its own pre-release programme based on what was appropriate for its prisoners. It was also planned to make greater use of peer mentors and developing the 'Informed Prisoner' project which would put the onus on prisoners taking responsibility for their own skills.


A discussion ensued and the following issues were raised:-

  • In response to a query as to whether children were permitted to visit the prison, the Panel was informed that there were no restrictions other than a requirement for under-16s to be accompanied by an adult. The prison held family visits and family events once a month which provided a more relaxed atmosphere for families visiting loved ones.
  • In addition, it was highlighted that the prison managed all risk factors around children coming into the prison and where any risks were identified, it would liaise with Social Care and vice versa. It was more of an issue to ensure that children were not being used to smuggle drugs. In cases where this happened, an appropriate alternative adult would need to be identified to bring a child into prison for a visit.
  • It was queried whether those serving life sentences, or longer sentences, were enthusiastic about taking up the programmes on offer in the prison. Members were advised that this group of prisoners was usually more enthusiastic as they were more settled and familiar with the daily prison routine. Those serving shorter sentences were often more difficult to motivate and engage as they knew they would be leaving.
  • In terms of monitoring a prisoner’s reoffending once they had been released, under the new arrangements, the National Probation Service managed high risk offenders and the CRC managed all other cases. All released prisoners had responsibility to engage with the CRC, however, the arrangements were still relatively new.
  • In response to a query regarding the current re-offending rate, the Panel was advised that the national statistic was that 60% of released prisoners would re-offend within two years, however, those serving life sentences were unlikely to reoffend, largely due to the nature of the offence.

The Chair thanked the Head of Rehabilitation and Re-offending for his attendance and the information provided.

Chief Superintendent G Lang, Integrated Offender Management (IOM) was in attendance to provide Members with information in relation to IOM.


The Panel was informed that IOM was a national scheme and was based on a scheme that had originated in Holland in the mid-1990s to reduce re-offending. The original scheme provided released prisoners with furnished accommodation and employment and had proved to have a positive effect. The IOM scheme had been developed from this model and provided a complete 'wrap around' service with input from a whole range of partners including drug and alcohol treatment services, probation, Police, housing and local authorities.


The Integrated Offender Management (IOM) scheme managed prolific and priority offenders and high crime causes in Middlesbrough and aimed to prevent re-offending. 35 adult offenders had been identified in Middlesbrough as being most likely to re-offend and were engaged in the IOM programme.


Each of the Tees Valley local authorities had its own IOM scheme in place and each scheme was slightly different to the other. The four authorities also had their own individual Community Safety Partnerships, each being specific to its own local communities.


Chief Superintendent Lang advised that he had developed a Central Hub for the IOM within the prison consisting of two prison officers, restorative justice worker, probation worker and one Police officer.


One of the difficulties facing IOM was that the CRC dealt with many of the IOM’s clients but some high risk offenders were dealt with by the National Probation Service because of the way in which their risk was graded. The National Probation Service had lost many staff and it was unclear at this stage what type of service its clients would receive.


It was explained that those offenders that were part of the IOM scheme would be required to attend the Police Station three times a week and to be drugs tested. Offenders could be sent back to prison if drug tests were positive. If the IOM received intelligence relating to an offender linked to a crime, the individual in question could be requested to attend the Police station four or five times a week.


The IOM was currently exploring the possibility of introducing a voluntary tagging scheme. The tag would allow specific parameters to be set, (eg that the individual would not be able to move more than 400 yards from their home address). The scheme was currently being operated in West Yorkshire and had 16 participants. They had found that ex-prisoners liked the system as it helped them with peer pressure.


In terms of IOM’s success in reducing re-offending, the Panel was advised that there had been prolific offenders from 2010/11 that had not re-offended since.


In addition, early intervention was being explored. Reduced Police resources meant that demand needed to be reduced and intervention as early as possible was required, with input from the local authority in relation to children.


A discussion ensued and the following issues were raised:-

  • The Panel queried how IOM clients were supported in the community. Chief Superintendent Lang stated that one of the key issues when a prisoner was leaving prison was to ensure they had accommodation. All of the partners worked together to ensure that the prison leaver had accommodation and sufficient finances for a week or so and this was found to reduce the risk of reoffending in the early days of being released.
  • Reference was made to restorative justice and it was stated that this was having a positive impact. Prisoners were given the chance to say sorry to their victims, but only if this was in line with the victims' wishes. 
  • In response to a question it was confirmed that there was no reward for a prisoner participating in the restorative justice scheme and that they did it because they were remorseful. The RJ programme also gave offenders the chance to undertake reparation work.
  • It was queried whether the Police still went into schools to work with children. It was stated that each school in Middlesbrough had an identified PCSO that could be contacted if there were any problems but the schools programme had been discontinued due to lack of resources.
  • A Panel Member asked whether there had been a noticeable increase in crime following the introduction of new Government welfare reforms. Chief Superintendent Lang stated that crime had increased, particularly shoplifting of food products.

The Chair thanked Chief Superintendent Lang for his attendance and the information provided.


The Panel examined the draft Terms of Reference, as set out at paragraph 4) of the submitted report and discussed which issues it wished to consider further and identified services/witnesses it wished to invite to future meetings as part of the investigation into rehabilitation and re-offending.


AGREED as follows:-

  1. That the information contained in the submitted report, and information provided by the Head of Rehabilitation and Re-offending, Holme House Prison (NOMS) and Chief Superintendent Lang (IOM) at the meeting, be noted.
  2. That the following Terms of Reference be agreed:-

a) To establish the current picture of adult reoffending in Middlesbrough.

b) To examine the impact the Integrated Offender Management (IOM) approach is having on reducing reoffending.

c) To examine the 'through the gate' community based resettlement support provided to ex-offenders in the Tees Valley.

d) To consider the provision of peer support/family support services currently provided to help turn around the lives of ex-offenders in Middlesbrough.


The Chair requested that the Panel note the contents of the submitted report which provided an update on business conducted at the Overview and Scrutiny Board meeting held on 28 July 2015, namely:-

  • Attendance of Executive Members - Adult Health and Social Care.
  • Final Report of the Health Scrutiny Panel - Future of GP Provision in Middlesbrough.
  • Final Report of the Environment Scrutiny Panel - North Ormesby Market.
  • Scrutiny Work Programme 2015/16.
  • Executive Forward Work Programme.

AGREED that the information contained within the report be noted.


The next meeting of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel was scheduled for Monday, 14 September 2015 at 10.30am.

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