Celebrating and promoting the best in UK prisons, probation and youth justice

JANET CARTER, LIZ MILLS & MARK SIDDALL (West Yorkshire Probation)

JANET CARTER, LIZ MILLS & MARK SIDDALL (West Yorkshire Probation)

AWARD WINNERS 2013-14: Mark and Liz from West Yorkshire Probation, and Janet from the Court Service, receive their Award for developing and implementing the Dynamic Change Model of offender management. The evidence-based model, under which sentence planning is postponed until after disposal, saved almost £1M in its first year, and has contributed to significant reductions in adjournments, breaches and re-offending. Their approach is now being rolled out nationally. 

IN THEIR OWN WORDS

[Liz Mills gives her account of the work for which she won her Award]

I won my Butler Trust Award for introducing an innovative approach called the ‘Dynamic Change Model’ (DCM) across West Yorkshire Probation Trust. DCM was developed in partnership with Her Majesties Court Service (HMCS) and enables practitioners to work collaboratively with offenders to develop a sentence plan and respond more easily to change.  The model has produced excellent results including fewer adjournments at court, a reduced number of breaches and improved re-offending rates.

Prior to January 2012 the detailed content of a sentence plan for those offenders subject to a community order was determined by Magistrates and Judges at the point of sentence informed by proposals in a pre-sentence report.   Sometimes this resulted in the right interventions for the offender however, increasingly this was not the case which was largely  a result of three issues:

  • A desire to produce more reports on the day of sentence within a short time frame to avoid adjournments and delays in sentencing. This meant that the report writer often had only a very short period of time to interview the offender and make decisions about the right proposals based on the 12 requirements then available as part of a Community Order.
  • A increasing range of programmes and specified activities had been developed to address various aspects of offending behaviour each with its own targeting and assessment requirements, for example for those with an alcohol problem options could include alcohol treatment, Stop Binge Drinking specified activity, Addressing Substance Related Offending (ASRO) and Control of Violence for Angry Compulsive Drinkers (COVAID) accredited programmes.   Selection of the right intervention within tight time constraints was becoming increasingly complex.
  • The attitude of some offenders pre-sentence can sometimes result in a lack of openness about the true motives for their behaviour or minimisation, for example in cases of domestic abuse or sexual offending.

As a consequence some offenders would be sentenced to court -ordered, named interventions that post sentence it became apparent were not the most suitable to address their particular offending related needs.  This would mean either a requirement to return them to court or individuals undertaking interventions that were not the most appropriate for them.  A practitioner made a comment about how helpful it would be if they could decide the content of rehabilitative interventions post sentence.  It was from this that the idea of DCM was developed.

A first step was to establish the legal basis of any change and this was confirmed with the Board Secretary (a qualified solicitor), Director of Operations and myself.  Rehabilitative interventions would be delivered through the existing activity requirement legislation but the specification would be the requirement to report to a named officer, named place, on a number of days and to comply with instructions rather than to specify a named activity.   This would give practitioners the flexibility to determine the content of the intervention post sentence during the induction phase.   The next step was to obtain agreement with the court service and this was achieved through an initial approach with local judges who agreed the legal basis and who were content to give probation practitioners professional discretion.   Discussion with HMCS followed and although there was some initial reservation that magistrates may be seen to be relinquishing some ‘power’ in determining the sentence a focus upon joint outcomes and benefits i.e. more on the day reports and fewer adjournments and breaches achieved a positive outcome.

As a result DCM was launched across West Yorkshire on 1st January 2012 as a joint initiative with West Yorkshire courts.

In terms of preparing practitioners for the change I was responsible for project managing the introduction and I established a small cross-functional group to lead the implementation.  This included:

  • Preparing a business case for strategic leaders
  • Agreeing a vision for practitioners to demonstrate the benefits in terms of best practice
  • Developing a SMARTA (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely and anti-discriminatory) action plan
  • Developing a training plan for Legal Advisors and probation staff
  • Designing a communication strategy which included material for key stakeholders, including internal and external partners
  • Agreeing an evaluation review with the Trusts research department

The model was reviewed 6 months and 12 months following the launch and findings included estimated savings of £860,000 in the first year through fewer court adjournments of 7% and a fall in the breach rate from 25% to 8.3%. There was also high levels of sentence satisfaction and positive feedback from offenders.

West Yorkshire Probation Trust was eager to share the learning from DCM with other probation trusts and interested parties and we held two open days for external partners and other interested parties to discuss out experience of implementation, what worked well and what, with hindsight we could have done better.  Practitioners shared their experiences and the findings from the initial evaluations were shared.

INSPIRE ARTICLE

[The following article appeared in issue 6 of the Butler Trust’s magazine, Inspire]

The Dynamic Change Model (DCM) was developed by West Yorkshire Probation Trust in partnership with the West Yorkshire Courts Service. An evidence-based approach to reducing reoffending, it was set up by Mark Siddall and Liz Mills for probation in liaison with Janet Carter for the Courts Service, and has already delivered reductions in court time and costs alongside reoffending rates.

Implemented in January 2012, the model changes the timing of an offender’s assessment so that in-depth assessments are conducted post sentence, allowing more time to go into detail and decide on the most appropriate interventions to address issues underlying the offence.

Mark had the initial idea and worked with Liz to develop the concept into something that would work in reality, persuading senior managers at the Trust and contacts at the Courts Service that it was a good strategy. Liz chaired the implementation team and sat on a number of working groups to ensure an effective transition between the concept on paper and roll-out across the service.

‘Because I believe that good assessment is the foundation of good practice, I was looking for a new approach to assessment,’ Mark tells Inspire. ‘I thought we were already pretty good at assessment but I wanted to become even better, so I asked some people to consider some potential models, and we tossed some ideas around. Undertaking a detailed assessment after sentence was one proposal that we worked on over a few months, and we developed it into the Dynamic Change Model.’

Research had shown that some offenders were being given group interventions that failed to address their offending behaviour, while others were either unsuitable for group work or agreeing to attend groups and then not turning up. DCM, however, used existing legislation that allows a court to make a generic activity requirement, and then conducted a detailed risk, needs and strengths analysis jointly with the offender to form an individual sentencing plan – an approach that means offenders ‘own’ their plans and are fully aware of why all the elements have been included. ‘The genesis of it was a desire to have the best possible way of doing good assessments that we could,’ says Mark. ‘We knew if we got that, our practice would be great as well.’

Mark and Liz approached Janet who helped to liaise with senior judges and magistrates to secure their buy-in. ‘I did have a strategy to get people onside, but the key issue was to focus on the benefits,’ says Mark. ‘In terms of who I would sell the benefits to, I was very clear that I was going to start with the judges – because of their status – and they saw the benefits pretty immediately. I’d spent quite a lot of time gaining their confidence in us as an organisation they could trust, because one of the cornerstones of this approach is that it transfers a lot of responsibility and authority from the sentencer to the probation trust, and I knew that we had to come across as trustworthy.’

Having secured their confidence, the strategy was to focus on selling the benefits rather than any questions of threat to their power and authority, he explains. ‘I told them that they would have more successful sentences, fewer breaches and that we would reduce reoffending. Once I’d got the judges, that was an important selling point with the magistrates, but again it was the same approach – it’s not important about who does what, just look at the benefits. That took the emotion out of it as well – the focus was on the outcomes.’

What sort of initial reaction was there from probation staff themselves, however? ‘The majority, intellectually, could see the benefits but emotionally were a bit concerned about the extent of the change involved, because it was utterly revolutionary. I had a number of staff say, “we really support the principle – it’s a great idea – but we’re just tired of change”.’

He also had to put in a good deal of work with the Ministry of Justice to persuade them that not only could his team deliver the new way of working but that it was legal, he says. ‘A lot of the senior legal people in the MoJ were very sceptical so we produced an absolutely rock-solid case, and once we’d got the backing of the judges – we spent an evening sitting with them going through various bits of legislation line by line – we could say to the MoJ, “the judges are fine with it, and if they’re fine with it that means it’s legal”. And in over two years we’ve not had the slightest sniff of any legal challenge.’

With the legal situation clarified, the next step was to train operational staff in the new approach, and convince them that DCM didn’t just represent change for it’s own sake. More than 20 new guidelines, manuals and other documents were developed, and 25 briefings were held for court and probation staff. Liz also produced postcards, leaflets and other resources to make sure staff had all the information they needed, and used feedback from a range of stakeholders – including offenders – to ensure the information was up to date. Meanwhile, Janet led the roll-out through the courts service, developing and delivering training for legal advisers and getting new magistrates up to speed with the approach.

DCM assessments use a ‘good lives wheel’ to engage the offender, asking them to evaluate their view of themselves in a number of categories – the more problematic the issue, the closer it’s placed to the hub of the wheel, giving the offender a clear understanding of why specific interventions are important. There’s also a group supervision approach, Action for Change, which encourages offenders to focus on their future and work with other members of the group to help achieve their goals.

So what sort of reaction has there been from the offenders themselves? ‘We’re an organisation that seeks out a lot of feedback from offenders,’ says Mark. ‘We’ve got various forums where we meet, and they take part in our recruitment selection processes for staff, so we get lots of feedback. We involved them in the piloting before we went live, and made some amendments in response to that. They’re really positive about the level of involvement and engagement they’ve got, they like the highly individualised approach as well, and we’ve absolutely slashed our breach rates, which speaks for itself. It’s been incredibly positive feedback – they just say that it’s so much more meaningful for them.’

The reoffending rate for West Yorkshire for October 2011 to September 2012 was, at 9.64 per cent, nearly 10 per cent lower than the predicted figure, with 450 fewer court adjournments, and the new approach also saved the probation trust £860,000 during its first year. ‘DCM has delivered everything it promised,’ said chair of the West Yorkshire Probation Trust board Stan Hardy. ‘The success and benefits are thanks to the careful planning and hard work of Mark, Liz and Janet’, while chief executive Sue Hall said their efforts had turned ‘an excellent idea into a workable reality’.

DCM has also been cited as ‘an excellent example of innovative practice helping to cut crime’ in a 2013 report from the Centre for Justice Innovation and the New Economics Foundation. The government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme, however, has meant that some plans have had to be changed.

‘We had plans to extend the model, and we will do that once the dust has settled,’ says Mark. ‘Some new legislation coming out builds on the Dynamic Change Model, and we have got an understanding from the Ministry of Justice that DCM will continue in West Yorkshire irrespective of the Transforming Rehabilitation changes, because they’ve seen that it’s effective and it’s cost effective. Because we’re the only organisation that’s actually implemented this, I imagine that we may have a role in advising or assisting other trusts in trying to get it rolled out and how they should engage with their sentencers, who are critical players, obviously. So there’s been a pause, but we’ll build the momentum up in the coming months.’

Winning the award has been ‘tremendous’, he says. ‘I know that the Butler Trust is very prestigious, and obviously probation is at a time of major, major change so it’s just great to have this validation of our work. It’s a real boost that something we’ve done has been recognised and hopefully will continue. It’s a real fillip.’

CONTACT

For more information: contact West Yorkshire Probation; Probation Service

JANET CARTER, LIZ MILLS & MARK SIDDALL (West Yorkshire Probation)

AWARD WINNERS 2013-14: Mark and Liz from West Yorkshire Probation, and Janet from the Court Service, receive their Award for developing and implementing the Dynamic Change Model of offender management. The evidence-based model, under which sentence planning is postponed until after disposal, saved almost £1M in its first year, and has contributed to significant reductions in adjournments, breaches and re-offending. Their approach is now being rolled out nationally. 

IN THEIR OWN WORDS

[Liz Mills gives her account of the work for which she won her Award]

I won my Butler Trust Award for introducing an innovative approach called the ‘Dynamic Change Model’ (DCM) across West Yorkshire Probation Trust. DCM was developed in partnership with Her Majesties Court Service (HMCS) and enables practitioners to work collaboratively with offenders to develop a sentence plan and respond more easily to change.  The model has produced excellent results including fewer adjournments at court, a reduced number of breaches and improved re-offending rates.

Prior to January 2012 the detailed content of a sentence plan for those offenders subject to a community order was determined by Magistrates and Judges at the point of sentence informed by proposals in a pre-sentence report.   Sometimes this resulted in the right interventions for the offender however, increasingly this was not the case which was largely  a result of three issues:

  • A desire to produce more reports on the day of sentence within a short time frame to avoid adjournments and delays in sentencing. This meant that the report writer often had only a very short period of time to interview the offender and make decisions about the right proposals based on the 12 requirements then available as part of a Community Order.
  • A increasing range of programmes and specified activities had been developed to address various aspects of offending behaviour each with its own targeting and assessment requirements, for example for those with an alcohol problem options could include alcohol treatment, Stop Binge Drinking specified activity, Addressing Substance Related Offending (ASRO) and Control of Violence for Angry Compulsive Drinkers (COVAID) accredited programmes.   Selection of the right intervention within tight time constraints was becoming increasingly complex.
  • The attitude of some offenders pre-sentence can sometimes result in a lack of openness about the true motives for their behaviour or minimisation, for example in cases of domestic abuse or sexual offending.

As a consequence some offenders would be sentenced to court -ordered, named interventions that post sentence it became apparent were not the most suitable to address their particular offending related needs.  This would mean either a requirement to return them to court or individuals undertaking interventions that were not the most appropriate for them.  A practitioner made a comment about how helpful it would be if they could decide the content of rehabilitative interventions post sentence.  It was from this that the idea of DCM was developed.

A first step was to establish the legal basis of any change and this was confirmed with the Board Secretary (a qualified solicitor), Director of Operations and myself.  Rehabilitative interventions would be delivered through the existing activity requirement legislation but the specification would be the requirement to report to a named officer, named place, on a number of days and to comply with instructions rather than to specify a named activity.   This would give practitioners the flexibility to determine the content of the intervention post sentence during the induction phase.   The next step was to obtain agreement with the court service and this was achieved through an initial approach with local judges who agreed the legal basis and who were content to give probation practitioners professional discretion.   Discussion with HMCS followed and although there was some initial reservation that magistrates may be seen to be relinquishing some ‘power’ in determining the sentence a focus upon joint outcomes and benefits i.e. more on the day reports and fewer adjournments and breaches achieved a positive outcome.

As a result DCM was launched across West Yorkshire on 1st January 2012 as a joint initiative with West Yorkshire courts.

In terms of preparing practitioners for the change I was responsible for project managing the introduction and I established a small cross-functional group to lead the implementation.  This included:

  • Preparing a business case for strategic leaders
  • Agreeing a vision for practitioners to demonstrate the benefits in terms of best practice
  • Developing a SMARTA (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely and anti-discriminatory) action plan
  • Developing a training plan for Legal Advisors and probation staff
  • Designing a communication strategy which included material for key stakeholders, including internal and external partners
  • Agreeing an evaluation review with the Trusts research department

The model was reviewed 6 months and 12 months following the launch and findings included estimated savings of £860,000 in the first year through fewer court adjournments of 7% and a fall in the breach rate from 25% to 8.3%. There was also high levels of sentence satisfaction and positive feedback from offenders.

West Yorkshire Probation Trust was eager to share the learning from DCM with other probation trusts and interested parties and we held two open days for external partners and other interested parties to discuss out experience of implementation, what worked well and what, with hindsight we could have done better.  Practitioners shared their experiences and the findings from the initial evaluations were shared.

INSPIRE ARTICLE

[The following article appeared in issue 6 of the Butler Trust’s magazine, Inspire]

The Dynamic Change Model (DCM) was developed by West Yorkshire Probation Trust in partnership with the West Yorkshire Courts Service. An evidence-based approach to reducing reoffending, it was set up by Mark Siddall and Liz Mills for probation in liaison with Janet Carter for the Courts Service, and has already delivered reductions in court time and costs alongside reoffending rates.

Implemented in January 2012, the model changes the timing of an offender’s assessment so that in-depth assessments are conducted post sentence, allowing more time to go into detail and decide on the most appropriate interventions to address issues underlying the offence.

Mark had the initial idea and worked with Liz to develop the concept into something that would work in reality, persuading senior managers at the Trust and contacts at the Courts Service that it was a good strategy. Liz chaired the implementation team and sat on a number of working groups to ensure an effective transition between the concept on paper and roll-out across the service.

‘Because I believe that good assessment is the foundation of good practice, I was looking for a new approach to assessment,’ Mark tells Inspire. ‘I thought we were already pretty good at assessment but I wanted to become even better, so I asked some people to consider some potential models, and we tossed some ideas around. Undertaking a detailed assessment after sentence was one proposal that we worked on over a few months, and we developed it into the Dynamic Change Model.’

Research had shown that some offenders were being given group interventions that failed to address their offending behaviour, while others were either unsuitable for group work or agreeing to attend groups and then not turning up. DCM, however, used existing legislation that allows a court to make a generic activity requirement, and then conducted a detailed risk, needs and strengths analysis jointly with the offender to form an individual sentencing plan – an approach that means offenders ‘own’ their plans and are fully aware of why all the elements have been included. ‘The genesis of it was a desire to have the best possible way of doing good assessments that we could,’ says Mark. ‘We knew if we got that, our practice would be great as well.’

Mark and Liz approached Janet who helped to liaise with senior judges and magistrates to secure their buy-in. ‘I did have a strategy to get people onside, but the key issue was to focus on the benefits,’ says Mark. ‘In terms of who I would sell the benefits to, I was very clear that I was going to start with the judges – because of their status – and they saw the benefits pretty immediately. I’d spent quite a lot of time gaining their confidence in us as an organisation they could trust, because one of the cornerstones of this approach is that it transfers a lot of responsibility and authority from the sentencer to the probation trust, and I knew that we had to come across as trustworthy.’

Having secured their confidence, the strategy was to focus on selling the benefits rather than any questions of threat to their power and authority, he explains. ‘I told them that they would have more successful sentences, fewer breaches and that we would reduce reoffending. Once I’d got the judges, that was an important selling point with the magistrates, but again it was the same approach – it’s not important about who does what, just look at the benefits. That took the emotion out of it as well – the focus was on the outcomes.’

What sort of initial reaction was there from probation staff themselves, however? ‘The majority, intellectually, could see the benefits but emotionally were a bit concerned about the extent of the change involved, because it was utterly revolutionary. I had a number of staff say, “we really support the principle – it’s a great idea – but we’re just tired of change”.’

He also had to put in a good deal of work with the Ministry of Justice to persuade them that not only could his team deliver the new way of working but that it was legal, he says. ‘A lot of the senior legal people in the MoJ were very sceptical so we produced an absolutely rock-solid case, and once we’d got the backing of the judges – we spent an evening sitting with them going through various bits of legislation line by line – we could say to the MoJ, “the judges are fine with it, and if they’re fine with it that means it’s legal”. And in over two years we’ve not had the slightest sniff of any legal challenge.’

With the legal situation clarified, the next step was to train operational staff in the new approach, and convince them that DCM didn’t just represent change for it’s own sake. More than 20 new guidelines, manuals and other documents were developed, and 25 briefings were held for court and probation staff. Liz also produced postcards, leaflets and other resources to make sure staff had all the information they needed, and used feedback from a range of stakeholders – including offenders – to ensure the information was up to date. Meanwhile, Janet led the roll-out through the courts service, developing and delivering training for legal advisers and getting new magistrates up to speed with the approach.

DCM assessments use a ‘good lives wheel’ to engage the offender, asking them to evaluate their view of themselves in a number of categories – the more problematic the issue, the closer it’s placed to the hub of the wheel, giving the offender a clear understanding of why specific interventions are important. There’s also a group supervision approach, Action for Change, which encourages offenders to focus on their future and work with other members of the group to help achieve their goals.

So what sort of reaction has there been from the offenders themselves? ‘We’re an organisation that seeks out a lot of feedback from offenders,’ says Mark. ‘We’ve got various forums where we meet, and they take part in our recruitment selection processes for staff, so we get lots of feedback. We involved them in the piloting before we went live, and made some amendments in response to that. They’re really positive about the level of involvement and engagement they’ve got, they like the highly individualised approach as well, and we’ve absolutely slashed our breach rates, which speaks for itself. It’s been incredibly positive feedback – they just say that it’s so much more meaningful for them.’

The reoffending rate for West Yorkshire for October 2011 to September 2012 was, at 9.64 per cent, nearly 10 per cent lower than the predicted figure, with 450 fewer court adjournments, and the new approach also saved the probation trust £860,000 during its first year. ‘DCM has delivered everything it promised,’ said chair of the West Yorkshire Probation Trust board Stan Hardy. ‘The success and benefits are thanks to the careful planning and hard work of Mark, Liz and Janet’, while chief executive Sue Hall said their efforts had turned ‘an excellent idea into a workable reality’.

DCM has also been cited as ‘an excellent example of innovative practice helping to cut crime’ in a 2013 report from the Centre for Justice Innovation and the New Economics Foundation. The government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme, however, has meant that some plans have had to be changed.

‘We had plans to extend the model, and we will do that once the dust has settled,’ says Mark. ‘Some new legislation coming out builds on the Dynamic Change Model, and we have got an understanding from the Ministry of Justice that DCM will continue in West Yorkshire irrespective of the Transforming Rehabilitation changes, because they’ve seen that it’s effective and it’s cost effective. Because we’re the only organisation that’s actually implemented this, I imagine that we may have a role in advising or assisting other trusts in trying to get it rolled out and how they should engage with their sentencers, who are critical players, obviously. So there’s been a pause, but we’ll build the momentum up in the coming months.’

Winning the award has been ‘tremendous’, he says. ‘I know that the Butler Trust is very prestigious, and obviously probation is at a time of major, major change so it’s just great to have this validation of our work. It’s a real boost that something we’ve done has been recognised and hopefully will continue. It’s a real fillip.’

CONTACT

For more information: contact West Yorkshire Probation; Probation Service

Top of the page