One size doesn’t fit all: time to get personal with offenders

With Interserve, we are piloting five initiatives aimed at supporting people on probation by offering them a personalised service that aims to help them lead better lives.

Those caught up in the criminal justice system often have multiple and complex problems. They also have strengths and resources that they can use to changes their lives. Everyone wins if the people we supervise can be offered the right support to help them reintegrate into their communities, to lead law-abiding lives and to once again contribute to society.

Interserve is responsible for rehabilitating 25 per cent of offenders assessed of being of low and medium risk of harm in England and Wales, including those supported by Humberside Lincolnshire North Yorkshire CRC (HLNY CRC). We supervise and work with low-to medium risk offenders with the aim is to help them reintegrate into society and to prevent them from committing more crime. We want to help people make positive choices, and we believe that personalisation holds the key which could potentially unlock a great deal of potential.

Given the stubbornly high levels of re-offending, it’s time to explore what a more personalised approach in criminal justice can deliver.

A Person-centred approach

HLNY CRC is embracing innovative concepts to support service users – people on probation – to turn their lives around. Our aim is to work with service users to develop solutions that enable them to achieve their goals for personal success. We want them to make the most of what is available to them locally and encourage them to access key support services. The main objective is to give people as much choice and control as possible to develop a package of support that works for them to stop them from re-offending.

Getting personal means designing rehabilitative support packages with service users not for them. This enables them to make personal change and also delivers the sentence of the court.

Such an approach encourages service users to take responsibility for their own rehabilitation and integration into local communities. It moves away from a more traditional and less effective ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Five new initiatives

1. Person-centred practice. While person-centred practice will underpin all the pilots, this initiative will aim to measure what a change in practice will actually deliver.

2. Choice and control promotion through use of a personal fund – set at a modest level – to help the service user achieve specific goals as part of a personal plan.

3. Creating a personal fund held by a women’s service provider to enable the provision of more flexible and personalised support.

4. Co-produced projects with service users to develop their own services and enterprises with a grant. This will be based on the principles of asset-based community development as well as developing entrepreneurial skills for service users.

5. Access to networks of support already available in the community in order to provide more choice and to increase service user involvement in local activities.

Robust evidence

We will explore how to apply these new personal services in practice.

We know this personalised approach has achieved notable results in other fields, and we intend to build on this success. It is still very much in its infancy in the field of probation, but we are excited about the pilots because we believe a personalised approach has the power to support people more effectively as they rehabilitate into the community.

Working with Manchester Metropolitan University’s (MMU) Policy Evaluation and Research Unit and Professor Chris Fox, Interserve, will develop, deliver and evaluate a personalisation model and identify the challenges to introducing innovation and changing practice.

Following delivery of the pilots, we will evaluate the evidence to see which approach delivers the best results for our service users. We will then strive to adopt these approaches at a wider level across our CRCs in order to help us achieve our aim: to reduce re-offending and thereby help improve people’s lives.