How Integrated Offender Management lost its way

Work with Offenders looks at the detail of a new joint inspection report into how we manage our most persistent and problematic offenders.

Last Friday (28 February 2020) the Probation and Police inspectorates published a joint report which concluded that the Integrated Offender Management scheme, designed to manage our most prolific offenders, had lost its way.

What is IOM?

The Integrated Offender Management approach was originally established in 2009 as the next stage of the Prolific and other Priority Offenders (PPO) programme which had been launched five years earlier. The PPO programme emerged from a very well-known Social Exclusion Unit report in the early years of the New Labour government which estimated that about 10% of the total offending population were responsible for half of all the crime committed in England and Wales. The idea was straightforward enough: the most persistent and problematic offenders in the local area were to be identified and managed jointly by partner agencies working together. IOM was designed to complement other statutory multiagency arrangements, such as Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA). It was different in that it not only targeted those on court orders or licences but also those currently outside the criminal justice system where intelligence suggested a significant level of offending. While MAPPA manages the most dangerous offenders, IOM targets the most prolific.

In layman’s terms, IOM is a supercharged carrot and stick approach where persistent offenders are offered intensive support to change, but are also subject to much closer surveillance which means that, if they do not take up the offer of support, they are more likely to be prosecuted, convicted and, in many cases, imprisoned.

The Home Office and Ministry of Justice jointly published the key principles of IOM in 2015:

  • all partners manage offenders together: a broad partnership base for IOM, with co-located teams wherever possible, helps to ensure that the local approach is underpinned by comprehensive evidence and intelligence and that a wide range of rehabilitative interventions are available to support offenders’ pathways out of crime;
  • to deliver a local response to local problems: the local IOM model reflects local circumstances and priorities, responding to the crime and reoffending risks faced by the local community;
  • with all offenders potentially in scope: IOM brings a wider partnership approach to the management of offenders identified as being of most concern locally, whether subject to statutory supervision by the NPS or CRC, or managed on a voluntary basis where not subject to these formal arrangements;
  • facing up to their responsibility or facing the consequences: the IOM carrot and stick approach brings a multi-agency partnership offer of rehabilitative support for those who engage, with the promise of swift justice for those who continue to offend;
  • with best use made of exisprogrammes and governance arrangements: IOM provides a ‘strategic umbrella’ that ensures coherence in the response to local crime and reoffending threats, providing a clear framework to make best use of local resources in tackling the most persistent or problematic offenders, identified by local agencies working collaboratively together;
  • to achieve long-term desistance from crime: IOM ensures that offenders of concern remain on the radar of local agencies, even if not subject to statutory supervision, or where a period of statutory supervision has come to an end, with the opportunity to provide sequenced rehabilitative interventions to provide the individual with pathways out of crime.

Findings of the inspection

The overall finding of the joint inspection was that the quality of IOM work had deteriorated substantially over the last five years. The two inspectorates last studied the programme in 2014. At that time, inspectors found “promising” performance with the right offenders being targeted, some excellent information sharing between agencies and good rehabilitation work.

However, the current inspection (which looked at a sample of cases across 7 regions) highlighted a number of key criticisms:

  • The decision-making process was unclear at times
  • Case files did not always record why police and probation officers used an IOM approach for managing a specific offender.
  • Around two thirds of inspected plans didn’t spell out what individuals would be required to do as a condition of being on an IOM scheme.

Inspectors found that the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation probation reforms (currently being redesigned) had had a negative impact on partnership working.

They also called for greater national leadership to ensure proper oversight of the programme. The two inspectorates also recommended improvements to data gathering and evaluation.

The report is not all doom and gloom with inspectors finding that offenders supervised by IOM were receiving a better quality of supervision than those receiving mainstream probation supervision. There were also several examples of police and probation officers “going the extra mile” to ensure that individuals received relevant support for complex problems.

The inspectors concluded by recommending an independent evaluation into the costs and benefits of IOM with a focus on determining which types of offenders benefit most from this multiagency approach.