Blog by Cathy Corrie on Policing and technology.
Reform roundtable seminar on "Adapting to austerity: How police forces are coping with the Spending Review", introduced by Sir Denis O'Connor, HM Chief Inspector of Constabulary, on Wednesday 18 July 2012.
Reform roundtable seminar on "improving value for money in the courts and tribunals service". Introduced by Peter Handcock CBE, Chief Executive, HM Courts and Tribunals Service.
By Tara Majumdar
A Reform roundtable seminar, led by Peter Handcock CBE, Chief Executive of HM Courts and Tribunals Service, set out to discuss how the organisation could provide value for money and how it is meeting the challenge of working a lot better for less. The key theme emerging from the discussion was that since being established in April 2011 the Courts and Tribunals Service has gone back to basics: assessing what the core function of the agency should be and how this can be achieved in a way that is most effective and efficient for taxpayers.
It was very clear from the discussion that the combination of budget pressures and responding to the riots in August 2011 has forced the agency to challenge existing expectations of what services it should deliver. The central principle of the Courts and Tribunals Service should be providing access to justice, which is a combination of ensuring that due process is followed, outcomes are delivered swiftly and value for money achieved. The criminal justice system as it currently stands rarely achieves all three objectives and frequently fails to meet any sufficiently. Achieving a balance between these functions will ensure the legitimacy of the system in the eyes of the public.
The challenge is how best to deliver these multiple objectives and meet the needs of stakeholders. The assumption that it is necessary to have more properties such as court houses and police stations to effectively dispense justice is increasingly being challenged. In less than two years, 142 courts have closed in England and Wales with no notable impact on service levels. In fact despite a significant spike in service demand following last year’s riots, the Courts and Tribunals service was able to process cases in hours as opposed to weeks demonstrating the potential for greater efficiency. This has helped to reduce the dependency on existing structures that are outdated and expensive.
Tighter budgets have incentivised greater cooperation and influenced criminal justice agencies to identify where joint working and the co-location of services can improve services. The movement towards digitisation has assisted this process by highlighting how disjointed current ways of working can be. For instance, the management of case files currently takes place between three groups of people using multiple paper records that are liable to be misplaced or damaged. A coordinated system that tracks the process from start to finish would increase efficiency and effectiveness across the criminal justice system. Greater transparency of criminal justice outcomes and the introduction of Police and Crime Commissioners from November 2012 should promote greater collaboration and encourage reform by promoting accountability for budgets and service provision.
Ultimately a system that is focused on offering the best quality outcomes at best value needs to be flexible about who is doing the work, concentrating instead on whether it is being done well and at the right cost. The decision to implement regional pay structures in the Courts and Tribunals Service demonstrates that greater flexibility is being introduced into the workforce although it is unclear how much further this will extend.
The Courts and Tribunals Service has made progress in implementing reform and prioritising value for money. Key innovations have been developed in the use of technology, workforce reform and the contestability of services between the public, private and voluntary sectors. The challenge now is to build on existing developments and ensure that good practice becomes the norm rather than the exception, not constrained to local pilots and selective processes.
Reform roundtable seminar introduced by Sir Norman Bettison QPM, Chief Constable, West Yorkshire Police, on Tuesday 6 March.
By Will Tanner
Since the Royal Commission in 1962, and the subsequent 1964 Police Act, the structures, ethos and governance of policing in England and Wales has not fundamentally changed. Yet in 2012, the nature and demands of policing are radically different to half a century ago – communication networks are no longer regional but global; public expectations of, and demands on, the police have increased exponentially; and the policing mission now encompasses increasingly numerous and complex threats, from fraud to terrorism to family breakdown.
A Reform roundtable seminar, led by Sir Norman Bettison QPM, Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police, set out to discuss policing in an age of shifting demand, and how forces can best equip themselves to meet current and future challenges. The event was held under the Chatham House Rule.
At the heart of the discussion was the question of what exactly the police are for. What was clear was that however the landscape of policing changes, local and neighbourhood priorities will remain at the heart of what the police do. The public’s concerns overwhelmingly focus on what happens 100 yards from their front door. This means adhering to the Peelian principle that “the police are the public, and the public are the police” and developing solutions with, not just for, communities.
If police forces are to meet the challenges of tomorrow without the budgets of today, salami-slicing will not be enough - the way in which policing is done will have to change dramatically. Here we can invoke another Peelian principle: “the basic mission of the police is to prevent crime and disorder”. The work of troubled families teams, delivering effective multi-agency working, and the increasingly preventative focus of Fire and Rescue Services, both offer important lessons.. If police forces are to meet the ever-increasing and shifting burden of demand, they must look to not just react to it, but to reduce it through earlier intervention, better partnership working and upstream investment.
All of this calls for innovation. Green shoots are emerging. Already a number of Chief Constables are merging functions across force boundaries. Others, such as Hampshire and West Yorkshire, are working with other public agencies both within and outside the criminal justice system to deliver shared solutions. Others still, including Surrey, West Midlands and Lincolnshire, are partnering with the private sector to enable them to focus on core policing priorities. The challenge will be to spread good practice across this emerging patchwork quilt and realise systemic, not just local, gains.
Reform roundtable seminar introduced by Dame Anne Owers DBE, Former HM Chief Inspector of Prisons on Tuesday 14 February.
By Will Tanner
The Government has placed prisons at the heart of its ‘rehabilitation revolution’ in criminal justice, pursuing innovative forms of payment by results, the development of working prisons, and the introduction of greater competitive pressures in order to improve value for money and outcomes across the estate. This seminar was convened to explore the subject of “Unlocked potential: The role of prisons in offender rehabilitation”, and was led by Dame Anne Owers DBE, who between 2001 and 2010 served as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons. The discussion around the table, held under the Chatham House rules, was broad and valuable, raising a number of key points.
Prison is all too often a service of last resort, forced to pick up where other areas of society and government have failed, and where intervention is, in many respects, already too late. The problems that prisons deal with are complex and not merely criminal, incorporating mental health issues, substance abuse, homelessness, family breakdown and other social issues too. The incentives – political, financial and operational, and for providers and commissioners alike – all lean towards containment rather than rehabilitation and isolation rather than partnership. Clearly if the criminal justice system is to effectively rehabilitate offenders, then prisons must be part of a greater, multi-agency whole that is equipped to deal with complex demand and incentivised to do so.
This is possible. The evidence from around the table demonstrated that innovative prisons, from both the private and public sectors, are already developing valuable partnerships with other local organisations and intervening further upstream, with a real, positive impact on recidivism. However if these pockets of best practice are to become both systemic and sustainable, other providers need to be incentivised to do the same. The greatest incentive is financial. The Government’s introduction of payment by results in this regard goes some way to incentivising providers, but a more intelligent approach to commissioning holds greater promise still.
In commissioning, the best way to incentivise reinvestment, partnership and earlier intervention would be to devolve budgets and powers for criminal justice to a local level. The Ministry of Justice has neither the capacity nor the expertise to deliver payment by results schemes in every locality in the country, and the Government has already hinted that Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) will have powers wider than their current policing brief. The geographical challenges of the prison estate notwithstanding, PCCs will be well placed to provide leadership and accountability for a broad range of justice outcomes, and they would be incentivised to look beyond the silos of the criminal justice system at more integrated solutions.
If prison is going to be more than just “an expensive way of making bad people worse”, as Douglas Hurd remarked in 1991, then a focus on rehabilitation is vital. Developing a more local approach that places the offender, not a specific service, at the heart of the solution is key to finding a cheaper and more effective way of preventing offenders from repeating the same mistakes.
Reform-HP roundtable seminar introduced by Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, Minister of State for Employment, on 24 January 2012.
Payment by results is in danger of becoming the Government’s big idea on public service reform. It had a big place in the Open Public Services White Paper and it is being implemented in the areas of welfare to work and offender management and rehabilitation. A working group has just been set up within government to compare experiences between departments and identify new opportunities.
This Reform seminar was the second in a series of events, sponsored by HP, to debate the latest thinking in the public service reform agenda. The first thing to say is that it is very clear that good, innovative providers are seizing payment by results with both hands. They like the idea that they have freedom to run their services as they wish in order to meet the target. One attendee explained that the focus on results (in this case for rehabilitation for prisoners) had led him to create a new working relationship between police, prisons and probation which clearly promised a better service all round.
One emerging problem is that the emerging variety of payment by results programmes are starting to trip over each other. There are already different programmes for unemployed people variously funded by national government, European funds and local government. In the Government’s view, these schemes are separate and mutually reinforcing (in that each seeks to achieve a particular outcome that helps towards the overall objective of getting someone back to work). In some providers’ views, the schemes overlap and result in multiple payments for doing similar things for the same people. It is easy to imagine the complexity getting worse as new programmes come on stream for troubled families and drug rehabilitation. The trade-off is between greater Government control of activity (and lower spending) and greater freedom for providers to decide exactly what will make the difference in a particular situation. Some attendees suggested that the solution might be local commissioning of payment by results programmes rather than a national procurement.
A remaining question is if we are to pay for “results”, who decides what the right “result” is? In the case of schools (say), I am very happy for schools to get paid by results, but I don’t want Michael Gove deciding for me what should be in my child’s curriculum. This suggests that there is a natural limit to payment by results as soon as consumer choice comes into the equation, which certainly includes education and the great majority of healthcare. Ministers cannot just rely on payment by results to reform public services; they will need to develop the other parts of the open public services agenda, specifically choice and competition in schools and the NHS, which so far has been more difficult.
Andrew Haldenby, Director
Roundtable seminar introduced by Paul Minton, Deputy Chief Constable and Chief Operating Officer, National Policing Improvement Agency, 12 January 2012
For the police service, the coming years represent a period of unprecedented change and challenge. The Government’s reforms will fundamentally transform the way in which policing operates at both local and national level, while Chief Constables are having to make difficult decisions in order to meet the 20 per cent funding reduction set out in the Spending Review. Yet it is precisely this changing landscape that is giving rise to a first-principles debate as to what the police actually do, how they do it, and how best the police can meet modern challenges in an age of budgetary restraint.
At the heart of this is the question of the police mission, specifically defined by this Home Secretary as cutting crime. Some have criticised this mission as too narrow for the complex and multifaceted role that police officers fulfil. Yet, as the discussion bore out, it need not mean a narrow and reactive approach to policing based on simply “catching criminals”. In fact, those around the table argued that the way to cut crime is to identify and understand its root causes, and then apply a preventative focus and early intervention. As one attendee said, the best way to cut crime is to reduce demand.
The implications of such changes for the police service itself are profound. If the police are occupied with more preventative work, then what is meant by the “front line” and the “bobby on the beat” change fundamentally. The second part of Tom Winsor’s review of police terms and conditions, expected later this month, offers a real opportunity. Chief Constables should have far greater freedoms to adapt their workforces in order to deliver a new approach and to respond to changing demand.
Better relationships between police and other organisations would promote early intervention. For many years, some police leaders have argued that localisation will threaten the efficiency and effectiveness of national policing arrangements. However, as the roundtable heard, existing examples of collaboration and inter-operable solutions within the 43 force structure show that there is now fertile middle ground in between centralisation and localism. Police and Crime Commissioners will encourage this co-operation because their own efforts to cut crime in their area will be encouraged by joint working between forces.
The meeting was held under the Chatham House Rule.