Community Justice Scotland (CJS) published a draft of its Corporate Plan 2020-2023 and has invited stakeholders to respond. We have a strong and positive relationship with CJS and as a key player in the delivery of community justice services in the third sector, the Wise Group welcomes the opportunity to respond and has highlighted four main areas outlined in the Corporate Plan for comment:
- Evidence-led Improvement Activity
This Corporate Plan shares a number of common themes with our own Strategy. Against this background we have some specific comments to encourage more clarity on how they will ensure evidence-led improvement activity, use data effectively, secure results in the prevention of offending and become established as a commissioner.
About the Wise Group
The Wise Group is a leading social enterprise, working to lift people out of poverty across Scotland and North East England. We have significant experience of supporting people to transform their lives, with our work focused across three strategic business units: employment services and skills; energy advice and advocacy; and community justice. Each year, we support over 50,00 individuals, including around 2,500 in the justice system.
Within community justice in Scotland, our support is delivered through a proven mentoring approach. Our key community justice services include:
New Routes Mentoring PSP. A public social partnership led by the Wise Group and funded by the Scottish Government. New Routes Mentoring can support almost any male serving a short term sentence in any of Scotland’s 32 local authorities. Mentors work with customers for up to six months in the prison, prior to release. They support them through their liberation and during the crucial first 48 hours following release and again, for six to nine months in the community. Support is entirely person centred and has proven to reduce the likelihood of returning to prison within a year.
SHINE Women’s Mentoring. The Wise Group is a delivery partner of this PSP. SHINE Women’s Mentoring supports women serving short term sentences or Community Payback Orders across Scotland.
Evidence-led Improvement Activity
The Wise Group supports the work of CJS to promote community sentencing as a robust and viable alternative to custody. Certainly, the success of the Second Chancers Campaign has highlighted the need for greater understanding of community justice services across Scotland in the mind of the general public. This can only support wider efforts by organisations across the sector as they work in some of the most challenging societal environments.
Sheriffs informally indicate that they have low confidence in the effectiveness of Community Payback Orders (CPO) as a meaningful alternative to custody. We believe that an enhanced CPO where mentoring works in tandem with statutory services is the correct and progressive way forward. This is where individuals receive wraparound mentoring and guidance during their unpaid work orders and move through an employment pathway as part of their unpaid hours. The result will be that in the final hour of someone’s unpaid work order, they move into paid employment, with ongoing support to sustain that employment – ultimately reducing reoffending and minimising the number of future victims of crime in Scotland. This is smart justice.
It provides meaningful support to the individual and raises confidence with Sheriffs that the CPO will be adhered to and also have a positive impact on the individual lowering the possibility of breach. We therefore welcome the focus on working with others to increase the public’s understanding, awareness and evidence of the benefits of non-custodial sentences.
We would welcome discussions to explore how we collaborate with Community Justice Scotland to create evidence led, needs based community justice services that support a change from custodial to non-custodial community based disposals and interventions.
We welcome the focus on data and measurement. As a sector it is crucial that we engage with a rich body of data to facilitate continuous improvement and targeted interventions linked to national offender outcomes.
Moreover, robust data allows for programmes to maintain a ‘person centred’ approach and enables programme leaders to build strategic alliances to augment the core work of the programme.
Coupled with digital and technological capability this would build capacity within the sector to interrogate data efficiently, including creating fully customisable databases and case management systems which can be tailored to capture any data needed.
To contend with the ambitions in this area we would support any development of a Data Strategy to improve the quality and availability of data in the sector.
As a sector we must focus on ensuring that more people leave prison than enter. Our prison population is too high. As part of their focus on Improvement, CJS should focus on upstream activity to ensure that less people enter prison. There is little detail in the Corporate Plan of how CJS intends to embed prevention into its improvement programme.
We would welcome the publication of the CJS prevention agenda to both inform and encourage collaboration among all parties working to deliver smart justice.
As the lead for the largest community justice mentoring programme in Scotland we would be happy to provide advice and support as a framework for commissioning is developed.
Some key learning points to note are –
- Understanding customer journeys. It is important that programmes know the needs of each customer, the progression each has made and the support organisations they have engaged with
- The ability to demonstrate the efficacy of the intervention in changing attitudes and behaviours
- Consider how programmes can adapt a standardised service and adapt it locally.
We note the important focus on promoting and supporting improvement in the quality and range of provision of community justice and making the best use of the facilities, people and other resources available to provide community justice.
The Wise Group is well positioned to provide solutions to Scotland’s community justice challenges. We have robust insight into the challenges that people in the justice system face. A key element of our mentoring delivery is that 50% of our colleagues have lived experience of the criminal justice system themselves, including imprisonment. This can be key to building relationships with people referred onto programmes, gaining their trust which leads to them making changes and achieving better outcomes.
We have made a strategic decision to augment the work done by social work services, rather than risk offering competing services. Building relationships with 1200 prisoners per year, we give those serving a community based sentence the best chance of moving away from crime completely therefore reducing reoffending and creating safer communities.
This means the Wise Group is well placed to facilitate improvement in meeting the needs of people who find them trapped in a cycle of offending and reoffending, supporting them to break this cycle and successfully settle in the community.
If you’d like to work with the Wise Group to support people in the justice system and help make communities safer, then get in touch.