The approach that sees police officers, probation staff and other agencies work together to manage offenders in a co-ordinated way is promising and has potential, said independent inspectors. Today they published the report of a joint inspection into integrated offender management (IOM), but added that a better understanding was needed of its effectiveness.
Integrated Offender Management is a significant element of the Home Office and Ministry of Justice strategy to prevent crime and reduce reoffending. It involves criminal justice and other agencies working together to deliver a local response to crime, targeting those offenders most at risk of reoffending or committing offences that might cause serious harm to others. The principles of IOM emphasise that all partners should co-operate in working with offenders and, in turn, that offenders must face their responsibilities or face the consequences.
The report, An Inspection of the Integrated Offender Management Approach reflects the findings of HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary. It looked at six areas of work in assessing the impact of IOM. Inspectors found a mixed picture with differing degrees of commitment to the approach among the relevant agencies. Although there were individual cases where remarkable progress had been made, overall the proportion of the sample that had been breached or reconvicted was over 60%. This figure could be seen as disappointing, but it also reflected the entrenched patterns of behaviour and multiple problems of those targeted.
Inspectors were pleased to find that:
- some good rehabilitative work was being undertaken;
- there were some excellent examples of information sharing to ensure enforcement action was swift and effective where it became necessary;
- considerable effort had usually been made to engage the offender in the IOM approach, usually in a custodial environment; and
- offenders were broadly very positive about the way they had been treated and pleased to have been offered the help they needed to move away from offending.
However, inspectors were concerned to find that:
- in some places, the IOM approach was underdeveloped;
- in some cases, the police were attempting to fulfil both rehabilitative and control functions where Probation Trusts had not committed sufficient resources;
- written plans for managing offenders were often not well developed, although staff were generally able to articulate what they were trying to achieve; and
- some staff lacked the necessary training to effectively deliver IOM approaches.
The chief inspectors made recommendations for improvement to the Home Office, Ministry of Justice, Chief Constables, Probation Trusts, the Youth Justice Board, community safety partnerships and IOM partnerships. These included proving a single framework for those offenders identified as suitable, commissioning a structured evaluation of the cost and benefits in terms of crime reduction and ensuring that the principles are incorporated into the Transforming Rehabilitation programme.
The chief inspectors said:
“Overall, our findings about the outcomes of the Integrated Offender Management (IOM) approach give rise to cautious optimism. It was clear to us that the right offenders were targeted; there were some indications that offenders’ lives had improved because their problems, such as substance misuse, had been addressed. Although reoffending rates could be regarded as disappointing, we saw this as symptomatic of the entrenched pattern of offending among the IOM cohort, rather than as a failure of the approach itself.
“But critically, we found that the absence of a structured and systematic approach to evaluation is undermining efforts to assess and report on the effectiveness of Integrated Offender Management. Integrated Offender Management is a commonsense approach that intuitively feels right. However, the absence of clear evidence of effectiveness in terms of both crime reduction and reducing reoffending inhibits understanding of its impact and value.”
A copy of the full report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Probation website from 27 March 2014 at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmi-probation/inspection-reports-thematic