Welcome to our fourth publication for sentencers. In this edition:
- A foreword by chief executive Kim Thornden-Edwards
- Coverage about our services for ex-military personnel
- An update about our work with offenders with autism
- Our latest performance data
- How you can get in touch with us.
Foreword by Chief Executive Kim Thornden-Edwards
I write at a time when a further consultation about the future of probation services has concluded, early termination of Community Rehabilitation Company contracts has been announced and a new competitive process commences in the Spring. This underlines that CRC staff must continue to operate in a constantly changing environment in which resources remain tight. Against this backdrop, I remain very proud of the work of CRC staff and the services they deliver – remarkable given the landscape I describe.
The final period of current CRC contracts – from now until the end of 2020 – will continue to be challenging, and we must work hard to keep the staff group stable and intact when uncertainty over new owners will inevitably cause some to be unsettled. My commitment is that we will do all we can to keep on an improving arc and deliver court sentences with integrity – seeing the satisfaction of sentencers as being one of our major criteria of success.
The fact that we continue to improve and work in new and exciting ways are evidenced by the three projects which are described in this edition of Changing Lives. Each is pioneering, each contain aspects which are unique when compared to national CRC provision, and therefore reflect the flexibility that CRCs have to work with offenders in ways which help them make pioneering change.
In the first, we describe the innovative approach we have taken to working with military veterans who have committed criminal offences. Our use of volunteer peer mentors, who themselves have had military experience, has had an extremely positive impact. The scheme is also run by a member of our staff who served in the army for 36-years, and his approach is to be highly commended. Secondly, we focus on the work carried out with Sandra Teale, an expert in the field of autism and Asperger’s. She talks about the support she gives our staff to help them support offenders with diagnoses – or suspected diagnoses – to ensure as many barriers as possible are removed from people so that they can successfully complete their orders and licences. Finally, we look at the work carried out by a team we commission to deliver bespoke courses to offenders you have sentenced to Rehabilitation Activity Requirements who need help overcoming substance misuses issues, among other problems.
As you may be aware, we currently undergoing our first inspection by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) under the new protocol adopted by the inspectorate. The HMIP report will be published later this year, and we will share with you their findings any actions which we will be taking in lieu of their findings.
I hope you find this edition informative. Please feel free to contact me to arrange a visit or for more details: [email protected]
Veterans’ project proves its worth
More than a hundred military veterans sentenced by the courts in Hampshire have been supported by a specialist project lead by probation.
A total of 117 veterans have been helped by 28 peer mentors – all of whom have also seen military service – since the scheme was launched by the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company (HIOW CRC) in 2015. During that period, only eight have been recalled to prison and four re-offended within a six-month period of finishing their sentence.
Ernie Grendall, HIOW CRC’s volunteer and veteran peer mentor coordinator, enlisted in the army in 1975 when he was 17 and served his country for more than 36 years before re-joining civvy street and eventually starting his probation career.
CRC probation case managers refer people on their caseload to the scheme. It starts with a meeting between the case manager, offender, peer mentor and Ernie. All agree how the initiative will work, which ordinarily involves the volunteer meeting the service user to support them to make positive changes to their lives.
A 44-year-old man, who was arrested for common assault and battery, is one of those to have been supported. He has a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis and committed the offences while drunk and abusing drugs.
He said: “I was suicidal and was harming myself on a regular basis. Until I met the mentor, I was really struggling.”
He worked with the mentor for 18 months. Support included referral to mental health experts and admission to a treatment programme, accommodation, arranging benefits, and help addressing addictions.
He added: “Having a mentor who has served in the military helped me a great deal. He understood me, had the same sense of humour and knew what it was like to have been in a war zone. I genuinely think that without the mentor, I’d have killed myself.”
Ernie, who spent his final two years in the army working as a welfare officer, said: “Leaving the army is tough no matter who you are or whether you’ve served two years or 22-years. The transition is always very traumatic as I know only too well from personal experience.
“The army institutionalises you. Your daily routine is governed like clockwork. You are part of a massive team, a team which you depend upon for your life and who become your extended family – and that is amplified tenfold during military operations.
“Then you leave and that’s that. Many have to re-educate themselves about what they think about civilians. PTSD can greatly exacerbate adjustment problems and lead to chronic isolation and depression. And soldiers also find it instinctively hard to ask for help.
“That’s why the service we provide is so important. We have all served, we can speak on the level with our service users and how to overcome the barriers they face. I think that’s why our success rates are so good.”
Roger Clift aged 67, from Andover, served in the army for 15-years. He became a volunteer peer mentor nearly six years-ago after reading about the scheme in the Andover Advertiser.
He said: “I tell my clients at the outset that I’m working with them because I want to, likewise I expect them to participate only because they want to. I don’t represent authority, I’m unpaid and my involvement with them doesn’t reduce their sentence.
“I think that dynamic means that there’s a bond I can form with service users which compliments the work probation undertakes.”
Roger, who is also active in other veterans’ groups in Hampshire, said he meets his clients on a regular basis during the first month, and then meets as required, while also being available for telephone calls.
He said: “I enjoy what I do. Not every case goes swimmingly, but when it works it is possible to see real progress.”
David Moxey left the Navy in 2001 before working for Airbus. He became a volunteer four-years-ago.
He said: “What I’ve seen is that all of the clients know where they want to be, but making progress from steps A to B to C can be frustratingly difficult. My role involves meeting every week or fortnight for a coffee, to listen, and to help motivate the individual to overcome whatever barriers they face and creating those positive social networks.
“One man was a talented musician but had given it up. Over time I helped him rebuild his confidence and to join a church musical group so he could start playing again. It was humbling to see his transformation, and to have played a small role in him becoming a functioning member of society once again.”
Pioneering support for autistic offenders
Offenders in Hampshire are benefiting from a pioneering service to support people on probation with Asperger’s and autism.
The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company first commissioned specialist Sandy Teal, who runs her own consultancy business, to work with the CRC five-years-ago.
Sandy has more than 40 years of experience working in special education and runs an independent service supporting individuals with Asperger Syndrome and high functioning autism and associated diagnoses, alongside offering support and training to professionals and families.
Sandy and her team have worked supporting HIOW CRC’s probation case managers with nearly 60 service users during 2018. The support they provide ranges from helping case managers develop their autism understanding and practices through to supporting service users to make positive changes to their lives and referring them onto other specialists if needed.
Service users who have a diagnosis of autism or Asperger’s are automatically eligible and can be referred, but staff can also refer service users who they suspect may have the condition.
Sandy said: “People with Autism Spectrum Disorders / Aspergers are often misunderstood within the criminal justice system, and so I applaud HIOW CRC for the innovative way in which they have gone about trying to improve how they deliver services to this diverse group of people.
“Both conditions impact upon the individual’s ability to socially communicate, and their social interaction can also include restricted and repetitive behaviour. We therefore work alongside case managers so they can see how we communicate with service users and learn about best practice.
“The barriers and challenges people with Autism Spectrum Disorders / Asperger’s face can be huge; they are frequently misunderstood, which can lead to them getting in trouble with the law, among myriad other issues. It is therefore important to provide bespoke support that is tailored toward them not re-offending and their individual needs.”
Sandy and her team also work with clients referred by the National Probation Service. They use screening tools that help to identify people with the conditions and can refer service users who are not already receiving support to GPs, Social Care, the NHS and voluntary services.
Sandy said: “We are the only service with this approach in the UK that I know of which is providing autism-specific work in the community to people supervised by a CRC. I am immensely proud of the work we are doing alongside HIOW CRC to provide bespoke support to our service users.”
Sandy added: “The message I want to get out to Magistrates and sentencers is that they may see an individual in the court who looks entirely like you and I, and therefore assume that they are understanding due to an ability to mask their feelings. People with autism can suffer from anxiety to a debilitating extent, and so may make inappropriate responses under stress – such as laughing or smirking – both of which would obviously be frowned upon by a sentencer.
“The court process demands that people quickly process information being communicated to them, usually only verbally. This is particularly difficult for people on the autistic spectrum. I also know of cases where the fact an individual ‘has not shown remorse’ has been used against them, but again this can be entirely symptomatic of the condition.
“This makes it absolutely crucial for us all to commit to better understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders/Asperger’s so that the right support can be given to those who have the conditions.”
Unique service achieving results
Offenders in Hampshire are benefitting from a range of bespoke services provided by the Society of St James Substance Misuse Service.
People supervised by the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Community Rehabilitation Company and ordered by the courts to carry out Rehabilitation Activity Requirement days as part of their sentence can be referred to the service.
The service runs a variety of workshops aimed at supporting offenders to make positive change, with a view to preventing them from committing more crime.
Paul Mitchell, from the Society of St James, is the service’s manager. The service runs evidence-backed interventions that focus on providing a holistic approach to tackling things such as: substance misuse, financial issues, accommodation and health.
He said: “The flexibility HIOW CRC has given us has enabled our team to create a suite of interventions that are typically aimed at people who have committed their first criminal offence. I think that previously these people would have crept under the radar, and only really come to probation’s attention when the severity of their crimes escalated.
“Our aim is to target them with the right intervention so that we can prevent them from coming back before the courts and give them the right support to lead them away from the criminal justice system.
“That’s why I’m passionate about the services we deliver because we see on a regular basis that by tailoring the right support to each offender – and one that focuses on their strengths – then we can achieve significant results.”
The service is used by HIOW CRC. They were commissioned to have an annual start target of 210 service users during 2018, and to achieve 141 successful completions. Up until the end of November, they had already exceeded those targets – having had 235 starts and 161 successful completions.
Paul said: “I believe our programme is unique. Often the offenders we engage with have committed lower level domestic violence offences, are not entrenched offenders, and as such respond well to what we are delivering.
“The programme is based on achieving outcomes for our service users. We assess them and work with them to see what their goals are and look at the best pathways to achieving those goals. We review progress with our clients to see if they are achieving those goals, and if not, what barriers do they need to overcome to make that progress.”
Our performance data
A small number of our service users were not able to complete their allocated unpaid work (UPW) hours within the 12 month post-sentence period. This had a fairly marginal impact on our UPW result for the quarter, but we remained above the 90 per cent target. Completions for CRC service users were around 3.5 per cent higher than for those in National Probation Service.
Most of those who failed to complete accredited programmes successfully were unable to complete all the modules before sentence expiry; for CRC cases this was more of a problem with the Drink Impaired Drivers programme. Successful completions for CRC cases were 22 per cent higher than for NPS cases in the quarter.
Lower rates of compliance in the North Hub resulted in a higher breach rate than in other hubs. Enforcement rates overall are in line with national average.
Our Performance data
Please click this link to read our latest performance data.
Please email our Chief Operating Officer Stephen Czajewski if there are any issues or observations you have about this newsletter, or if you want to arrange a visit to HIOW CRC: [email protected]