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 Councils Community Safety Manager, the Head of Re-offending and Rehabilitation at Holme House Prison and the Chief Superintendent, Cleveland Police (IOM) and the Chief Executive and Head of Reoffending at Durham Tees Valley CRC.
In accordance with the established terms of reference, J Allen, Head of Cleveland Area, National Probation Service (NPS) North East, was in attendance at the meeting to provide further information to Members.
The Panel was advised that re-offending data could not be provided at the present time for a variety of reasons resulting from the massive changes that had taken place due to the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms which had seen the Probation Service split into two organisations. The changes had included a transfer to national and regional IT systems from local systems.
The Head of Cleveland NPS stated that the reforms had seen a split in services with a new public sector National Probation Service (NPS) managing all high risk offenders and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies managing all other offenders (low to medium risk). These organisations replaced the original 35 probation trusts that previously operated across the country.
On a local level, caseload management was split with around 30% of offenders being managed by NPS and around 70% of offenders being managed by the CRC. The initial 70% - 30% split was the subject of ongoing discussion as it was currently more of a 60% - 40% split, with occasions where a 50% - 50% split had occurred. It was highlighted that the previous Durham Tees Valley Probation Trust had covered all of the Tees Valley and Durham. Under the new arrangements, the NPS covered the Tees Valley areas only (Middlesbrough, Stockton, Hartlepool and Redcar and Cleveland), whilst the CRC covered the Tees Valley and Durham.
The key roles of Cleveland NPS was to protect the public, support victims, reduce reoffending and to rehabilitate high risk offenders by tackling the causes of offending. The Cleveland NPS assessed offenders and prepared pre-sentence reports for Courts to help them select the most appropriate sentence. The Cleveland NPS worked closely with the DTV CRC and other partners to manage high risk offenders within the community, ie those who posed the highest risk of harm and/or those who had committed serious offences with a sentence of 12 months or more. Those offenders who had committed violent offences or sex offences were eligible for MAPPA (Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements). A copy of the Teesside MAPPA Annual Report 2014-15 had been circulated to the Panel with the paperwork prior to the meeting. The MAPPA process worked by agencies joining together to share information in order to protect the public by monitoring offenders within the community.
In terms of the processes followed, once an offender was sentenced, an initial risk assessment was completed by the Probation Service in Court using the RSR tool. The assessment would determine whether the offender was suitable to be managed/supervised by the CRC or the NPS. As previously stated, the NPS managed high risk offenders. It was highlighted that where the risk dynamic changed and increased, for example, an offender being supervised by the CRC whose risk had increased would have a risk escalation assessment completed by the CRC in liaison with the NPS. Where their assessment resulted in an escalation to high risk, the offender would be transferred to the NPS and would remain under NPS management for the remainder of their licence or order. This ensured a high level of consistency.
The Panel was advised that Durham Tees Valley had always been a high performing area in terms of probation and Cleveland NPS remained high performing. Since the new arrangements had come into being, Cleveland NPS had been the top performing area on at least five occasions and had always been within the top six performing areas on the performance chart. Cleveland NPS and DTV CRC continued to have one of the best joint working relationships in the country. The two organisations met on a regular basis and had a constant open dialogue. The DTV CRC would be working from community hubs in the near future, however, there had been some delays due to national IT issues. In the meantime, DTV CRC staff remained within the NPS buildings. Whilst the DTV CRC had experienced changes with agile working, etc, there had not been any major changes, as yet, to the structure of the NPS. The Cleveland NPS currently occupied two Middlesbrough town centre buildings and this would reduce to one building, and a Team was also located within the Court buildings. It was a possibility that the NPS would have the opportunity to purchase some services from the CRC, in the future, in terms of offender management where the offenders risk had reduced.
The Panel was informed that Cleveland NPS currently supervised a total of around 1,300 offenders, 420 of which were in the Middlesbrough cluster. 86 of those were the subject of Community Orders and 126 were post-release offenders (ie they had been in custody and were now being supervised on licence). 208 of those 420 offenders were in custody waiting to be released at some point in the future.
Each offender was banded on a tier system with level one being low risk, level two being low to medium risk, level three being medium risk and level four being high risk. Of the 420 supervised offenders in Middlesbrough, 269 were tier four cases, 99 were tier three cases, 51 were tier two cases and one person was a tier one case. These figures fluctuated at times depending upon custody and sentencing.
At the present moment caseloads were as follows: Hartlepool - 170 cases, Middlesbrough - 420, Redcar and Cleveland - 111, South Bank - 77, Stockton - 273. Middlesbrough was the largest area with the majority of cases falling within the TS1 postcode.
In terms of staffing, 14 Probation Officers were employed within Middlesbrough and had an average caseload of 31 cases. This was the maximum capacity of probation officers permitted on the staffing establishment. It was highlighted that all staff were civil servants and employed by the Government which had been a significant culture change in terms of moving from dedicated training and IT departments to shared services.
The Panel was advised that there would be a further review of the NPS structure through the E3 Programme. E3 stood for effectiveness, efficiency and excellence and was created following the Transforming Rehabilitation Programme in June 2014.
Each of the services provided by the NPS were looking at vast changes with a National Framework being introduced, which would clarify the responsibilities of the NPS towards each service. This would have an effect on role responsibilities for Probation Service Officers and Probation Officers, with more responsibility being given to Probation Service Officers.
The aim was to address variations in order to provide a consistent service delivery model throughout the seven divisions, rather than continuing to function via a range of procedures used in the former Probation Trusts. To do this the NPS was looking to provide improvement on the IT systems. Training was another area that would be standardised, with more e-learning being used. This would also result in efficiency savings that were required to be made. Other efficiencies had also been introduced such as increased use of video and telephone conferencing wherever possible (and safe to do so) reducing travel. Probation Officers were now required to obtain permission to travel outside of the Cleveland area prior to travelling.
It was highlighted that a recent inspection of the services provided by NPS Cleveland had been extremely positive. The full inspection report was awaited, but informal feedback highlighted good partnership working, strong analysis and risk management, and one of the best areas in terms of working with the local CRC.
During the ensuing discussion, the following issues were raised:-
In response to a question in relation to staffing and recruitment, the Panel was advised that the NPS continued to take on PQFs (Probation Qualifications Framework) and newly qualified Probation Officers. The Cleveland NPS currently had five such employees who were 'training on the job'.
In response to a query, it was stated that there were currently five offenders subject to the Integrated Offender Management (IOM) programme in Middlesbrough. IOMs were those at highest risk of re-offending and the Police worked directly with them. Where offenders were deemed to be high or very high risk and posed the highest risk of harm in the community, they may be made subject to MAPPA arrangements. The Head of the Cleveland Probation Service informed that she chaired the level 3 meetings for the Cleveland area (currently two very high risk offenders).
It was queried whether NPS envisaged any problems as a result of immigration. The Head of Cleveland Probation Service stated that she, and her Manager, sat on several Panels that looked at refugee numbers, including silver and gold Contest Groups. There were currently procedures in place to deal with non-English speaking offenders, however, if the numbers increased it may impact on the ability of staff to supervise them effectively and arrangements would need to be reconsidered.
In response to a query as to whether the service linked up with mental health services, Members were advised that, whilst in prison, offenders would be referred to the appropriate health services where necessary and the NPS would refer offenders to the appropriate health service and/or MAPPA.
The Chair thanked the Head of Cleveland Probation Service for attending and for the information provided.
AGREED that the information provided be noted.