Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel Minutes

Date:
Monday 16 November 2015
Time:
10:30 a.m.
Place:
Spencer Room, Town Hall, Middlesbrough
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Councillor F McIntyre (Chair), Councillor L Lewis (Vice Chair); Councillor J Goodchild, Councillor A Hellaoui, Councillor J Hobson, Councillor B A Hubbard and Councillor T Lawton (substitute for Councillor M Walters).
Observers:
Councillor T Higgins.
Officers:
C Breheny and J Dixon.
Apologies for absence:
Councillor Z Uddin and Councillor M Walters.
Declarations of interest:

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

Item Number Item/Resolution
PUBLIC
15/22 MINUTES - COMMUNITY SAFETY AND LEISURE SCRUTINY PANEL - 26 OCTOBER 2015

The Minutes of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel meeting held on 26 October 2015 were submitted and approved as a correct record.

15/23 RE-OFFENDING AND REHABILITATION - HOW DOES MIDDLESBROUGH FARE? - FURTHER INFORMATION


The Scrutiny Support Officer submitted a report to provide further information to the Panel in relation to its current scrutiny topic, "Re-offending and Rehabilitation - How does Middlesbrough Fare?"

 

The Panel had previously heard evidence from the Council’s Community Safety Manager, the Head of Re-offending and Rehabilitation at Holme House Prison and the Chief Superintendent, Cleveland Police, in respect of Integrated Offender Management (IOM).

 

Members were advised that the Ministry of Justice 2013 'Transforming Rehabilitation' programme of probation reforms had split probation services into two new organisations:-

  • A new public sector National Probation Service (NPS) dealing with those who posed the highest risk of serious harm to the public.
  • 21 regional Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) managing all other offenders.

On 1 February 2015, the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014 came into force and introduced a number of changes to the release arrangements for offenders serving custodial sentences of less than 12 months and for those between 12 months and two years, as follows:-

 

Extension of licence - extends release on licence for the second half of sentence to offenders serving custodial sentences of more than one day but less than 12 months.

 

Post-sentence supervision - creates a new supervision period for all offenders released from custodial sentences of less than two years. Allowed a range of requirements to be imposed on the offender to support them moving away from crime. The supervision period topped up the licence period so that overall, every eligible offender would receive 12 months' of supervision in the community following release.

 

Young adult offenders - applied the new supervision period to offenders who were sentenced as juveniles but who were 18 or over at the ordinary point of release from their sentence.

 

Breach of post-sentence supervision - A new process for Magistrates' Courts to deal with breaches of the supervision period. The Act provided Magistrates with a wide range of sanctions, including up to 14 days in custody, fines, unpaid work and curfews, all of which could be applied when a breach was proved.

 

Bronwen Elphick, Chief Executive, Durham Tees Valley Community Rehabilitation Company (DTV CRC) and Barbara Gill, Head of Offender Services, DTV CRC, were in attendance at the meeting to provide the Panel with an overview of the services provided by DTV CRC.

 

The Chief Executive of DTV CRC explained that DTV CRC was one of 21 CRCs across the country that dealt with low to medium risk offenders, with the National Probation Service (NPS) dealing with all high risk offenders.

 

The 21 CRCs were owned by a total of eight different parent companies, with DTV CRC being owned by parent company ARCC (Achieving Real Change in Communities), which was a consortium made up of Stockton, Darlington and Redcar and Cleveland local authorities, Tees Esk and Wear Valleys NHS (TEWV), Changing Lives in the North East, Safe in Tees Valley, Thirteen Group, the Vardy Foundation and the Wise Group, and had existed since 1 February 2015.

 

As part of the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, from May 2015, the DTV CRC delivered 'through the gate' services which provided continuity of service for offenders, including induction of an offender into custody, resettlement services before release, meeting them at the prison gates and continuing work in the community.

 

During the course of discussion, the following issues were raised:-

  • In response to a query it was confirmed that ARCC was a share-holding Company and that its nine consortium members held equal shares in DTV CRC, with one share being held by the Secretary of State.
  • A Panel Member queried whether industrial action had been undertaken recently by employees. It was confirmed that there had been National industrial action taken by CRC staff as some CRCs had announced staff cuts. This did not affect the DTV CRC. 
  • Reference was made to the Community Payback Service which Panel Members had previous experience of utilising within their Wards in the community. The Panel was advised that the service was still in existence although the service delivery model had been required to change due to all of the changes to the Probation Service as a whole. There were some issues with liability insurance due to the service now being provided by a private company, meaning that each project had to be risk assessed and the appropriate insurance obtained before work could commence on a project. This was a learning curve for all involved.
  • It was highlighted that members of the public could go to the DTV CRC website to nominate community projects for the payback teams. There were currently 95 individuals participating in Community Payback in Middlesbrough and those offenders assigned to community payback were allocated projects to work on within 28 days.
  • A Member of the Panel referred to assistance provided in the past by Community Payback during the winter months, for example, clearing icy footpaths at the local shopping centres, and queried how quickly the service would be able to respond to similar requests for unplanned work in future. The Head of Offender Services responded that she would be able to respond to such requests more quickly if she was aware of previous projects in order to undertake some planning in advance and would make enquiries in relation to this particular project.

Barbara Gill, Head of Offender Services, DTV CRC advised the Panel that service delivery was made through community based hubs. Staff met with participants on a weekly basis and provided access to accommodation, employment services and mental health projects. It was anticipated that the service offer would be extended to a further community hub in south Middlesbrough and Members were invited to visit the hubs to observe, if they wished to do so.

 

It was highlighted that the Peer Mentor scheme had been interrupted by the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda, however, nine community volunteers had been recruited to date. The volunteers and University worked with participants to engage them.

 

Reference was also made to the work undertaken with the IOM scheme (Integrated Offender Management) which dealt with a core group of prolific offenders. The Head of Offender Services advised that she was a member of the IOM Strategy Board which shared best practice between the four Tees Valley IOM schemes.

 

Discussion ensued and the following issues were raised:-

  • It was confirmed that the hub-based service delivery was introduced in 2012 and pre-dated the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda.
  • In response to a query, it was confirmed that all hubs had been risk assessed in terms of health and safety and that all CRC staff, peer mentors and volunteers were vetted prior to working with participants. It was highlighted that MP Andrew Selous, Minister for prisons and rehabilitation, had visited DTV CRC and given positive feedback in relation to the DTV CRC peer mentor scheme.
  • In terms of how Middlesbrough fared in relation to re-offending and rehabilitation, the Panel was informed that there would be no meaningful statistics available until the end of 2017 as it would take 18 months to two years to obtain the information from the current cohort. It was difficult to analyse data at the moment as there was nothing to compare it too in terms of how the service was performing.
  • In response to a query regarding breaches of post-sentence supervision, the Head of Offender Services explained that one of the sanctions for breaching supervision was up to 14 days in custody. 
  • A Panel Member made reference to domestic violence and it was explained that all offenders were assessed using an assessment matrix and were banded into three separate groups depending on their score. 
  • A Member of the Panel suggested that it would be helpful for the Panel to have sight of the statistics prior to the new system coming into effect. It was confirmed that previous statistics were available to view on the Government website and it was also highlighted that the figures for reoffending in Middlesbrough were: 34.6% in 2013, 32.9% in 2012, 33.5% in 2011 and 32.4% in 2010. It was queried whether there was information available as to the actual numbers of reoffenders - ie 34.6% of how many people?  To provide some context, it was stated that there were currently 770 people in Middlesbrough under CRC.
  • It was queried whether there were any plans for the future to harmonise IT systems between the CRCs, NPS, NHS and Police so that information could be shared in terms of offenders that might pose a threat that one or more of the agencies may be unaware of without the benefit of shared information. The Panel was advised that there were no plans to do this at the moment but acknowledged that there were anomalies between recording systems. The information recorded by the CRCs was held by the NPS which was a downside to the transformation in terms of IT.
  • In response to a query, information was provided in relation to results payments and it was explained that varying amounts of money were provided to the CRC depending upon certain criteria being fulfilled, such as hitting targets for prevention of reoffending, and reoffending frequencies. The Panel was assured that whilst the DTV CRC was required to operate within financial boundaries, it always ensured that the correct course of action and procedures were followed with participants.
  • As previously mentioned, it was highlighted that whilst there was currently no information available in relation to the success of the DTV CRC Through the Gate scheme, there had been positive feedback from service users.
  • The Panel was advised that, in terms of reducing reoffending, Middlesbrough and Hartlepool were ahead of the other Tees Valley areas. In Middlesbrough, out of a cohort of 35 offenders, 18 were currently in custody. Four of those had been recalled following breaches of post sentence supervision. It was highlighted that the DTV CRC worked very closely with the NPS, however, this was not always the case in other parts of the country.
  • It was queried what help was provided to homeless offenders. It was stated that the DTV CRC helped them to register as homeless in order for them to obtain the appropriate support, such as free food stops, access to free food parcels and cooking facilities.
  • It was highlighted that prevention was an area that the DTV CRC wanted to become more involved in by way of a pathways scheme. Funding would need to be obtained and this was something that they hoped to explore in the future. It was of concern that in cases where cautions were issued by the Police, this was not recorded. The DTV CRC felt that it could manage delivery of this pathway more safely.
  • In relation to queries regarding the ethnicity and gender of offenders, it was stated that the case load of Asian offenders was extremely low and that currently around 11-14% of offenders were female. The offending profile showed a high proportion of violent offences compared with other areas. In terms of support for women accessing the Through the Gate scheme, it was confirmed that 12 months supervision was provided.

In summary, the Panel was advised that DTV, with the support of ARCC, was unique and had a good reputation. It’s Through the Gate scheme was operating well and receiving positive feedback and the community hubs were well-received.

 

The Chair thanked the Chief Executive and Head of Offender Services, Durham Tees Valley Community Rehabilitation Company, for their attendance and the information provided.

 

AGREED as follows:-

  1. That the information provided by the representatives from DTV CRC be noted.
  2. That the Scrutiny Support Officer liaise with the representatives in relation to arranging site visits to the Community Hubs for any Panel Members wishing to observe staff and volunteers working with participants.
  3. That appropriate representatives from the National Probation Service be invited to a future meeting of the Panel.


 

15/24 THE REGULATION OF INVESTIGATORY POWERS ACT 2000 (RIPA)


The Scrutiny Support Officer submitted a report outlining the purpose of the meeting which was to receive the annual update on the intention and restrictions associated with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA).

 

As background, the Panel was reminded that RIPA was the law governing the use of covert surveillance techniques by public authorities, including local authorities.

 

The Act required that, when public authorities needed to use covert techniques to obtain private information about someone, they did it in a way that was necessary, proportionate and compatible with human rights.

 

The Panel previously received an update in relation to RIPA on 17 December 2014 and learnt that:-

 

a) The Council could only apply for RIPA authorisations for directed surveillance to investigate offences which attracted a maximum custodial sentence of six months or more.
 

b) Local Authority authorisation and notices under RIPA for the use of particular covert techniques could only be given effect once an order had been approved by a Justice of the Peace (JP).
 

c) During 2014, 11 RIPA applications had been made by Middlesbrough Council for cigarette sales and counterfeit clothing, one for benefit fraud and one for the sale of alcohol.
 

d) Out of the total of 14 applications, sufficient information had been obtained in seven cases, with five ongoing.
 

e) The number of authorisers with the Council had been reduced from 13 to six.

 

RIPA Orders were reviewed on a monthly basis for up to three months by a Senior Officer within the relevant department. If the RIPA Order had achieved its objective or demonstrated that no evidence would be obtained, then it had to be terminated immediately by notification to the granting officer. At the end of a three-month period, a RIPA Order could be extended further but only in very limited circumstances.

 

S Bonner, the Council’s Corporate Initiatives/Corporate Complaints Manager, was in attendance at the meeting and confirmed that the content of the submitted report remained largely unchanged.

 

In terms of processes, the number of authorising officers within the Council had now been reduced from six to three.

 

There had been four RIPA applications made by Middlesbrough Council in 2015 in relation to tobacco and copyright infringement.

 

The Panel was advised that a recent inspection by the Office of Surveillance Commissioner, on 1 April 2015, reported that it was pleased with Middlesbrough’s performance but suggested some improvements. An action plan was formulated as a result which included training and awareness for staff and to refresh officers of procedures.

The Chair thanked the officers for the update provided.

 

AGREED that the information be noted.
 

15/25 DATE AND TIME OF NEXT MEETING - MONDAY, 21 DECEMBER 2015 AT 10.30AM.

The next meeting of the Community Safety and Leisure Scrutiny Panel was scheduled for Monday, 21 December 2015 at 10.30am.

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