Blog post written by Alex Fox, Chris Fox and Caroline Marsh based on an article recently published in Journal of Social Policy

The criminal justice sector has never achieved rates of re-offending with which the public and policy makers are satisfied. Recent attempts to address this have included the use of payment by results for private providers, organised through large contracts. In many ways though, the criminal justice sector remains unreformed: still heavily reliant upon institutions recognisable from many years ago and caught between the aims of rehabilitation and punishment.

Adult social care reforms have been more dramatic and arguably more successful. The institutional setting exposed at Winterbourne View by BBC Panorama in 2011 stood out as a rarity in a sector which has rapidly de-institutionalised. Like the criminal justice sector, the adult social care sector has made increasing use of non-state providers, but there is a greater presence of small and voluntary sector providers. This has partly arisen due to the introduction of personal budgets, which now account for over £2bn of public spending,  in which an individual is told how much resource has been allocated to them and asked how they want it to be spent, with the option to take it as a cash Direct Payment.

Can the criminal justice sector learn from a programme of reform which promotes individual choice and control, given the need for deprivation of choice implicit in the very concept of punishment? Recent interest from other sectors in personalisation has tended to focus on the extent to which personal budgets can promote market diversification to increase competition on price and quality, or individual tailoring of service responses. Our paper notes outlines why personal budgets are only one part of diversifying markets, and need matching with investment in new forms of supply to avoid creating a market in which large, generic providers thrive at the expense of tailored, niche and third sector providers.

The Transforming Rehabilitation process will open the Probation Service for all but the highest risk offenders to competition. The Ministry of Justice sates that innovation will be rewarded, and that the system will give rehabilitation providers the flexibility to do what works to reduce reoffending. So opportunities are potentially there for new providers, including new entrants and the voluntary sector, SMEs and mutuals, to develop a more personalised approach to work with offenders, but the outcome of this process should be monitored to assess whether it does in fact build a more diverse provider marketplace, or simply leads to a cheaper version of the same.

Whilst personal budgets are the more widely recognised aspects of personalisation, the recent White Paper and Bill have also stressed the importance of deeper culture change, away from an exclusive focus upon individual needs and towards the promotion of well-being, defined holistically to include active citizenship, family life and opportunities to pursue training and employment. A traditional service package, however well-tailored, cannot on their own enable an individual to achieve these goals, so approaches like Shared Lives, in which families are supported to include an adult who needs support in their family and community life, are being promoted to as ways in which professionals can focus upon and build an adult’s strengths and informal support networks, enabling the adult to contribute more to those around them, rather than being seen as only the recipient of support.

There are clear synergies between this richer formulation of personalisation and ideas in criminal justice such as ‘desistance’ and the Good Lives Model. With so many offenders also having learning disabilities, mental health problems and other social care related needs, now including dementia in an aging prison population, there has never been a more urgent need nor greater opportunity for the two sectors to align their visions and approaches.

Read the entire article ‘Could Personalisation Reduce Re-offending? Reflections on Potential Lessons from British Social Care Reform for the British Criminal Justice System’, without charge here

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *