Private Probation Rolling Out Payment By Results

07:08 Monday 29 October 2012
Bigger Breakfast Show
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

PAUL STAINTON: A former prisoner says Government plans to extend a scheme trialled and tested in Peterborough won’t stop people reoffending. Last week David Cameron said he wanted to increase the number of private firms and charities involved in rehabilitating criminals. The Prime Minister said he wanted payment by results, and those contracts to become the norm by 2015. The scheme was first  two years ago. And last week David Cameron expressed his feelings towards the scheme, and made this announcement. (TAPE)
DAVID CAMERON: It’s such a good idea I want to put rocket boosters under it, and indeed today I have an announcement to make. By the end of 2015, I want to see payment by results spread right across rehabilitation. Now of course there’ll be some high-risk offenders for whom this is not appropriate. But this approach should be the norm rather than the exception.” (LIVE)
PAUL STAINTON: Well that’s what David Cameron had to say. Let’s speak to Juliet Lyon. She’s Director of the Prison Reform Trust. So this is the way to go then?
JULIET LYON: Well yes, that’s according to the Prime Minister it certainly is. It would be helpful I think if it was “a” way to go rather than “the” way to go, because it’s comparitively untested, looks like a really interesting idea. We will quite soon see some results from it, but as yet as I said there aren’t the results. You’d expect the Prime Minister to want to see the evidence before saying it’s the one thing we’re going to do right across the prison estate.
PAUL STAINTON: So why is he so in awe of it all, almost? He’s going to put rocket boosters behind it, and yet he’s got no actual data really to put that confidence behind.
JULIET LYON: Well exactly. I think that is a matter of concern. What’s happening at Peterborough does make perfect sense, and it’s well organised. It’s basically a scheme that focuses on people as they’re leaving prison being mentored to help find jobs and housing, and help them break addictions to drugs, if that’s necessary. Everybody knows that it’s the basic things that stop people reoffending, so at the moment only a third of people leave prison with a job or some kind of education course to go on to. Very many people leave homeless. And contact with the families is the third thing that helps cut crime in the future. So there’s a common sense reason why you do it, and there’s a very good charity involved, St Giles Trust, which has got results from other work that it’s done earlier that’s very promising indeed. So it’s not a criticism of the scheme itself to say it’s a good idea to have evidence before you roll something out right across the country. But I think it is, and payment by results is a method that is being trialled here, but it’s a kind of world’s leader, so that’s always exciting and slightly unnerving at once really.
PAUL STAINTON: In a nutshell, payment by results is if people reoffend after a certain time, the company in charge of it don’t get paid. That’s essentially it, isn’t it?
JULIET LYON: Yes. Sodexo in this case run the prison, and people would share in the profits, including the charities obviously involved. And the scheme itself, for example, an investment of £5 million, if it works in the way that they’re hoping it will, in other words a reduction of over seven per cent in reconviction rates each year, year on year for six years, then the return could be as much as £8 million. And that return comes from Government and I think from the Big Lottery as well. So it’s a good investment, but it’s a very long term investment, and as yet unproven.
PAUL STAINTON: So we’re in danger of putting all our money on one horse that might not win the race?
JULIET LYON: Well it will win, because there’s only one horse running, but exactly that.
PAUL STAINTON: But it might not do the job. It might win the race but in a really slow time, to continue the analogy, that doesn’t do what it says on the tin.
JULIET LYON: I know. That is the worry. And it would be helpful if there were other things running at the same time, other horses, so that things could be compared. Nobody’s going to accept the current reconviction rates. They’re exceptionally high. So the average is just under half of everyone who’s in prison, forty seven per cent will be reconvicted within just one year of release. And for petty persistent offenders it’s much higher, and for young people much higher. It goes as high as seventy per cent in some cases. So nobody’s going to accept that. Everybody wants to see the reconviction rates come down. But there will be other ways of doing it, and this is one way, and it’s one very .. looks like very promising way. It does have a few drawbacks as well, and one of the drawbacks is that for small local charities, unless they partner with a mega-charity, or they partner with one of the big private companies, then they can’t possibly wait that long to be paid, because they don’t have that spare finance to put down a large sum of money and wait.
PAUL STAINTON: By the time they get paid they might have gone out of business.