Service users who design services? Our innovative approach to reducing reoffending
For those familiar with the current criminal justice system, it will be a well-known fact of how we serve the public by trying to fulfil our main goal - to reduce the rates of reoffending.
The National Audit Office has estimated the cost of reoffending in the UK to be between £9.5bn and £12.5bn a year. Not only is this causing an increasing strain on the public purse, reoffending also presents an increased risk to public safety. Needless to say, the challenge to reduce reoffending is tough.
So how are we tackling this problem
We have sought to empower service users to find the solutions to the problems that lead to their offending.
Because even though we are the ‘professionals’, we know that our service users are the ‘experts’. They are the ones who have experienced the services first hand and know best what works – and what does not.
So instead of drawing up ideas in a boardroom in the absence of their specialist knowledge, we have worked alongside User Voice to create a Service User Council, a genuine partnership approach with service users, involving them in important decisions about the way services are delivered, designed and commissioned – that way ensuring those services are based on the real needs of service users.
For service users involved, this model has:
- Boosted their confidence
- Helped them develop life skills
- Made them feel valued and respected
- Given them ownership of the services provided to them.
For us, it has:
- Led to service improvements
- Helped to improve outcomes for service user
And without their input could we really come up with equally valid – and innovative – ideas to effectively reduce reoffending?
Take Andrew for example, after many missed appointments, we have had to take him back to court despite his Responsible Officer trying to re-engage him to successfully complete his licence and sending him a final warning letter. Following Andrew’s actions, the court could decide to revoke Andrew’s licence and return him to prison, where he could possibly lose his accommodation and job – two factors that are counterproductive to rehabilitation and would increase his future likelihood of reoffending.
But, now we employ ex-service users as Case Support Workers to engage those who are the greatest risk of breach – which was an idea proposed by service users themselves. This new role sees the Case Support Worker using their experiences of the criminal justice system to reach out to service users, helping them to overcome barriers in order to re-engage them with the service before breach action is even needed.
This is just one of the many proposals which has resulted from the direct collaboration between us and those who are using our rehabilitation services that will hopefully help us to achieve our goal of reducing reoffending.