In this guest blog Joanne Oliver, Senior Contract Manager for the Community Interventions Business Delivery Unit at Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) outlines the changes to the ‘through the gate’ (TTG) service specification which will be in place from 1st April 2019.
As one of the team members within HMPPS that leads on TTG services, I have been working on developing and implementing a new, enhanced TTG programme. We often have people asking us what this looks like, how it works and how it will help people in our care. I hope the below blog answers some of these questions.
So why am I telling you this? What do I need from you? The way this enhanced specification will work best is if everyone works together and communicates. So, if you are already involved in delivering TTG services in partnership with the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), or you’re delivering other services in prisons, please take the time to understand the enhanced service and think about what you can do to support it and improve it. If you’re working in the community and there are things which you can offer which will support successful resettlement, then I’m sure your local CRC and National Probation Service (NPS) division will want to know more.
The current picture and why things are changing
In May 2015 we asked CRCs to deliver services in all those prisons in England and Wales that were releasing people into the community from resettlement prisons. We asked them to do an assessment at the beginning of the sentence, produce a plan and then put that plan into action in the last 12 weeks before release. This ‘through the gate’ service was to focus on accommodation, finance, benefit and debt, education, training and employment. There were also some extra expectations around working with those who were victims of domestic abuse and sex workers.
Unfortunately, it quickly became clear was that the service wasn’t working as well as we hoped it would. There simply wasn’t enough detail about what it should look like and what it should deliver. Also, a number of people were being released from non-resettlement prisons who were not receiving a service.
We spent time talking to people, to TTG providers, including their supply chain organisations, prisons, contract management teams, and wider stakeholders, to gather their feedback on how this programme could be improved. We took all that feedback and created the new enhanced specification which will be going live by 1st April 2019 (2 CRCs are already delivering this).
We have had to work within the existing CRC contract using a process of contract variation. This means that we haven’t recontracted the service or brought in new supply chain providers but we have asked CRCs to tell us how they, and their existing supply chain partners, will deliver the new service. In some cases, they have extended their supply chain partners to deliver more specialist services. We’ve invested £22m per year in additional funding to CRCs to make sure that the improvements are delivered.
What we’re aiming to do
We want to improve outcomes, reduce reoffending and make communities safer by ensuring people resettle successfully on leaving custody. We want the additional funding to enhance services to ensure that all those leaving custody receive a tailored service based on their assessed needs to maximise their chances of resettling successfully. We aim to raise the quality of the service being delivered, including much stronger personal support, ensure parity of service for all, and support a seamless integration between prison and the community. Also, we want prison governors to be involved in decision making and address Her Majesty’s Inspectorates of probation and prisons’ recommendations.
CRCs are responsible for supervising those people assessed as low and medium risk of harm in the community and providing TTG interventions to both their own caseload and those assessed as high-risk of harm who are managed by the NPS in custody. The enhanced TTG specification sets out under each area of delivery what CRCs and their supply chain partners need to deliver to meet a minimum level of activity and to provide a personalised service according to each person’s needs. This includes specific tasks which are intended to:
- Help each individual to secure and maintain settled accommodation
- Gain employment, including giving advice about disclosure of criminal offences and supporting them into education and training
- Manage debt and their financial affairs, including supporting them in opening a bank account
- Have their health and addiction issues addressed and receive continuity of treatment upon release
- Support people with any referral application process to other services in the prison and in the community.
How things are changing
The enhanced TTG service will see people assessed for their level of need against each area of delivery and then a service delivered to the right intensity to meet that need. There are three levels:
- Level 1 – This applies to all regardless of need. It is focused around assessment, resettlement planning and signposting. It is assumed that everyone will receive all aspects of level 1 services.
- Level 2 – This applies to anyone with an identified need. Not all activity in level 2 would apply to everyone. For example, in respect of accommodation needs, it includes assisting those on short sentences to retain a tenancy, and those on longer sentences to close a tenancy.
- Level 3 – This applies to anyone with an identified need(s) and additional complexity or vulnerability. Where required, depending on the individual, this includes activities for women, foreign nationals, young men, those who commit sexual offences and those identified as otherwise vulnerable or complex (e.g. those with learning difficulties and disabilities).
We have developed a probation instruction, which sets out clearly what is expected under each pathway and level. The probation instruction is annexed to the minutes of the roundtable with TTG providers chaired by Clinks in October 2018. It includes a section setting out quite clearly what activity we expect under each pathway and where the TTG staff should be signposting to other services, both in prison and outside. For example, the new specification includes a requirement for the TTG staff to ensure the person is registered with a GP in the community before they leave prison. We don’t expect TTG staff to do this directly themselves but to work with the healthcare department in the prison to get it done. In respect of education, training and employment, TTG staff will need to work closely with those already delivering those services in that establishment to make sure that the person gets the input they need.
There is a lot of thinking and planning happening about the next generation of contracts and this is a real opportunity for us all to show how well we can make this work. In the end we all want one outcome, people being released from custody with the right support and the hope and belief in a future free from offending.