National Audit Office report on improving resettlement support for prison leavers
The report focuses on efforts to reduce reoffending
The National Audit Office (NAO) published its report on improving resettlement support for prison leavers in England and Wales to reduce reoffending on 12 May, which finds that the government is not consistently supporting prison leavers in resettling into the community and the quality of services has declined in recent years.
According to official figures cited in the report, 38 percent of prisoners released from custody between April 2020 and March 2021 reoffended in the following 12 months. The report also finds that HM Inspectorate of Prisons did not rate any prisons as ‘good’ for rehabilitation and release planning in 2022-23, compared to three percent in the previous year and 30 percent in 2019-20.
The NAO’s report examines the government’s effectiveness in resettling prison leavers, the factors affecting service performance, and what needs to be addressed to improve resettlement services in the future. The report includes details on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on prisons and probation services, as well as challenges stemming from the reorganisation of probation services.
The report states that one of the aspects impacting service performance is the ‘severe shortage’ of probation officers, combined with high caseloads, which has resulted in the HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) not being able to complete all the essential resettlement work. The NAO’s review also discovered a mix of outcomes for prison leavers and states that HMPPS does not know why different groups of prison leavers have ‘very different’ resettlement outcomes.
The recommendations put forward in the report include: that HMPPS should plan how it will manage higher demand for resettlement services; government bodies on the Cross Government Reducing Reoffending Board should publish a report in 2024 defining clear roles and responsibilities in the resettlement system; and that better data is needed, including on whether Commissioned Rehabilitative Services contracts are making a positive difference to offenders.
Commenting on the report, head of the NAO, Gareth Davies, said “One of the core purposes of prisons and probation services is to prepare prisoners for release effectively and ensure their smooth resettlement into the community. However, HMPPS and its partners across government do not do so consistently. While HMPPS has made some progress in recent years around issues such as accommodation it must ensure the basics are in place, including defining clear roles and responsibilities in the resettlement system.”