In the Government's recently published ‘Transforming Rehabilitation: a strategy for reform' Chris Grayling states:
“I am determined the taxpayer will only pay providers in full for those services that actually deliver real reductions in reoffending.”
Whilst not surprising, this commitment to only commissioning and funding services proven to reduce reoffending, means that VCS organisations will need two key things –
- access to reoffending data
- the ability to undertake and commission high quality research and evaluation.
I’m currently involved in two pieces of work Clinks are doing with NPC to support the Sector in this. These pieces of work are really important because without robust evidence the Sector will struggle to prove its impact and will be unable to compete in the new commissioning environment brought about by these reforms.
Access to data
Last year Clinks worked with NPC to survey Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Sector organisations on their need for, and access, to reoffending data. Following this NPC published their Unlocking offending data report and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) launched the pilot of a Justice Data Lab which will provide organisations with re-offending data specific to the offenders they have been working with. Organisations can submit information on their service users to the Lab and MoJ analysts will match this with national records to produce reoffending rates for that group of individuals.
Access to the Data Lab is free for VCSE organisations in the pilot year, which runs from April 2013. However the Lab requires organisations to meet a high threshold in the level of data they are able to provide on their service users and this could be tricky for the Sector, especially small organisations. I would be interested in hearing your views and experiences of using the Data Lab, so please email me at Jessica.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hopefully, the Data Lab will provide much needed reoffending data, but we must also try to maintain a focus on other indicators of desistance from crime and reintegration into the wider community. These are key areas where we know the Sector, with its ability to provide holistic and person-centred services, can have particular impact. Positively the National Offender Management Service's Commissioning Intentions for 2013-14 describe a number of intermediate outcomes which, based on current evidence, are seen as having an important influence on reducing reoffending. But individual organisations will need to be able to illustrate that they achieve these outcomes and they can be difficult to measure.
Good quality research and evaluation
Clinks have also recently begun work with NPC on a new project, Improving your evidence. The project will provide a range of support resources to enable the Sector to be better at evidencing their work and the outcomes it achieves. To shape the support the project provides we are currently conducting a survey on the Sector’s experience of monitoring and evaluation and research. I’ve been interested to see some of the responses so far, with most organisations feeling that they need to improve their monitoring and evaluation of the quantity, quality and impact of their work. It’s really important that we understand organisations' challenges and support needs in these areas so we can provide appropriate support.
We are also holding a series of events with speakers from the VCS, NOMS, private sector companies and local commissioners exploring what is meant by good evidence, what its role is and some of the issues and challenges around collecting it. The events will also include workshops to explore what currently works in research and evaluation and what support is needed to improve it. These discussions will shape the programme of support the project provides.
As The Transforming Rehabilitation reforms get underway it is critical that the Sector is able to evidence its impact and we would urge all organisations, big and small, to get involved in the project, complete the quick survey, and attend one of these events. Find out more about the project at http://www.clinks.org/support-evaluation-and-effectiveness/improvingyourevidence