Government to roll out payment-by-results for prisoner rehab

22 Oct 2012 News

The Prime Minister is to announce the expansion of the payment-by-results prisoner rehabilitation scheme which is being piloted in Peterborough, in a speech this afternoon. 

The Prime Minister is to announce the expansion of the payment-by-results prisoner rehabilitation scheme which is being piloted in Peterborough, in a speech this afternoon. 

In his speech, Prime Minister David Cameron will say: "When this government came to power we were spending £40,000 a year [per criminal] just on banging people up. With payment-by-results, your money goes into what works - prisoners going straight, crime coming down, our country getting safer."

A coalition of charities, funded by the first social impact bond in the UK, are working to reduce the rate of reoffending by short-sentence prisoners released from HMP Peterborough. The One Service scheme reported early improvements in December 2011, just one year into the eight-year project. Police recorded lower incidents of reoffending and anecdotally offenders noted greater control over their lives.

But the move to expand the programme before the full pilot results have been collated has been criticised by opposition MPs, including shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan. Speaking on Radio 4's Today programme, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said in defence that detailed statistics on the Peterborough pilot will be available this month.

"I will have the evidence by then. It will take more time than a month to get sorted out. But look, we have to do this differently, we've got people coming back out into the streets after prison who are as likely to reoffend again as not to reoffend, we've got to do things differently," he said.

Voluntary sector involvement

Asked who would be providing the services, Grayling indicated that the voluntary sector would form an important component in the expansion: "It's both private companies and also voluntary sector organisations. There are some very good voluntary sector organisations like the St Giles Trust for example, who are involved in the Peterborough pilot, who I think have got great skills to bring to bear.

"Of course one group of people who can be a big influence are those who have been there before. Where I've seen examples in community projects of former offenders mentoring younger offenders to say: 'I've been through it all, I've gone straight', that can be enormously powerful, and you've got a lot of that in the voluntary sector," said Grayling.

Toby Eccles, development director at Social Finance, which runs the Petersborough pilot, said:  "We welcome the focus on a group that has previously been under-resourced. It's interesting to see the progression of the Peterborough pilot into something that is focused on a short-sentence group."

Concerns over payment-b-results

Payment-by-results (PBR) has been the subject of scrutiny in the charity sector with concerns raised over its implications for charities burdened with workload and no guaranteed payment, the difficulties faced by smaller organisations in obtaining contracts, and the possibility of fixing results, leaving vulnerable beneficiaries neglected.

Dan Corry, chief executive of NPC and former adviser at the Treasury and Downing Street, said:

"One of the strengths of PBR, that the provider will go the extra mile to try and hit the outcome targets desired can also lead to undesirable behaviours. One such behaviour is the temptation to ‘park and cream’. In other words you work hardest with those that you think you can get over the line and so achieve your outcome targets and associated payments.

"If a person is going to reoffend whatever you do then it is pointless putting much effort into them. This is a natural and at times a desirable response to the incentives faced, but it means those who are harder to help get ignored (even with complex incentive payments that are supposed to be weighted by the degree of difficulty of helping that person).

"It also means that prime contractors (often for-profit organisations) will pass the toughest cases on to the charity sub-contractors. In a similar vein, all the effort goes into the specified outcomes - often hard ones with cashable savings attached - and the softer but crucial outcomes like self-esteem and wellbeing become ignored."

Asked whether it is too easy to "fudge results" in the PBR model Grayling said: "In many ways the measurements for payment-by-results in criminal justice are very binary - do you reoffend or don't you? And we've got very simple measures for that. If you're not back before the courts, if you're not being charged with an offence, you haven't reoffended. But if you're back in court, back in the police cell then it's not worked, and the providers don't get paid."

But Corry advises: "If head office puts too much pressure on the organisation to hit targets, then don’t be surprised if people are tempted to make sure the data says what head office wants to hear, whatever the truth. All those involved in PBR will need to watch very carefully to avoid this - be they the providers (for-profit and not-for-profit), commissioners or indeed public watchdogs. The more that data is open and publicly available the less room for this sort of thing to go on, as people can monitor and pick up on fraud more easily."

The Peterborough pilot was the first social impact bond model introduced in the UK. Since its introduction social impact bond funding has been replicated globally and in the UK to combat other areas such as homelessness. In Peterborough's social impact bond model if the service delivers a drop in reoffending beyond 7.5 per cent, investors will receive an increasing return capped at a maximum of 13 per cent per year over an eight-year period. But if the 7.5 per cent target is not reached, the investors will get nothing back.



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