Personal approach to reducing re-offending

by Caroline Marsh, independent consultant working with Interserve justice

We can support people to make changes to their lives, but my firm belief is that it is only when an individual wants to change, that really crucial progress can be made.

Interserve, which runs five successful Community Rehabilitation Companies, has recognised this principle and has made it a cornerstone of its Interchange Model. Interchange is the company’s model for the rehabilitation of people on probation, suspended sentence orders and on licence from prison. The aim is to learn from experiences of personalised support in social care and elsewhere.

I have always believed in the power of this from my early days as a social worker, when I realised that people need to change their own world before the world will change as a whole.

Everyone has a different story, and their own unique solutions. Organisations can unintentionally work against this by only offering a limited menu of services, or disjointed delivery arrangements between service providers and a ‘one size fits all approach’ that doesn’t quite hit the spot for many people going through the system.

The end result can only ever be partly successful, as people feel done to, rather worked with. It doesn’t have to be like this though. The solution is partly a matter of philosophy, recognising that people want ‘a life, not a service’ (a catchphrase we used for the personalisation pilot I led as Director of Adult Social Care in Manchester); and partly innovative service design.

Interserve has embraced such innovation, recognising that whilst evidence-based interventions such as accredited programmes have their place, there is more to rehabilitation and desistance from crime than this, and a more holistic and tailored approach is required.

The model aims to deliver rehabilitative support packages that are co-produced with people on probation, enabling them to make personal change while also enabling the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) to deliver the court’s sentence.

In 2017 a proof of concept pilot was run in each of the five CRCs to test out ways to embed person centred practice and a focus on community reintegration. This has been evaluated by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), and the subject of a range of journal articles by Chris Fox (MMU) and myself.

From this learning, an integrated model for personalised service delivery has been developed. The approach to personalisation is based on building on the service user’s strengths, working with them to identify solutions, instill aspiration, self-control and new life skills.

There is recognition that this is a personal journey, and risk management is dynamic, but the expectation is that a service user will have more control and choices as they move through their order. The question of how they will live their life successfully in their community becomes more significant than how they will stop offending in the short term.

The personalisation model embraces four principles:

· creating change

· optimising choice and control over lifestyle and decisions

· creating community support

· living a good life in a community.

An integrated pilot to apply this model with some additional innovative interventions to guide person centred practice is being set up in Hull, a probation office of the Humberside, Lincolnshire & North Yorkshire CRC. The intention is to work with a hundred service users over at least 12 months using the new approaches. This is part of a European funded project, Co-creation of service innovation in Europe (CoSIE) exploring co-creation of services with citizens, and it is a great opportunity for Interserve to take part in this as it brings much learning from other sectors as well as rigorous evaluation, again by MMU.

As staff co-create solutions for rehabilitation with service users, the service will adapt and innovate. Generating stories to support co-creation and ongoing practice development are a key element of implementation.

The pilot will be supported in this by People’s Voice Media, an organisation working with all the CoSIE pilots, bringing a fresh approach to gathering and curating stories through use of peer community reporters recruited and trained from the service and service users. This will help ground the pilot in the experience of real people, which is what it is all about really.

Tools to support such co-creation include use a of what we call a 3-conversations model. The model was developed in social care to stimulate effective and empowering discussions with service users. It includes person centred practice tools, access to coaching, enabling funds to support purchase of goods and services that will make a difference, support to create new social networks, opportunity to contribute to their community, and creative use of technology.

It is clear that the pilot is far from being a purely academic exercise. A genuinely personalised approach, firmly rooted in desistence theory and the Interchange Model, has the chance to change lives. It is the impact that this may have on service users that makes this such a genuinely exciting initiative.

As someone who has worked at senior management level, commissioned services and worked to influence systems, I can honestly say that I think this approach will have the biggest and most sustainable impact because it really speaks to the premise I started with – that change begins with the individual, and lots of personal change will surely lead to social change and better lives for us all.