Government programme targeting prolific offenders has ‘lost its way’

A programme originally set up to tackle persistent offenders has “lost its way” and better leadership is needed to get it back on track, according to inspectors.

Integrated Offender Management (IOM) was supposed to bring together police, probation services and other agencies to identify and manage repeat offenders in local communities.

HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services have found schemes no longer focus exclusively on these types of offenders and current performance is “disappointing”.

Chief Inspector of Probation Justin Russell said: “Persistent offenders who commit high numbers of burglaries, robberies and drug-related crimes cause havoc and leave people feeling unsafe in their own communities.

“Originally, IOM provided targeted and intensive support to the most persistent offenders that aimed to tackle factors that contributed to their crimes, such as homelessness and substance misuse.

“Overall, IOM now has a much lower profile compared to a few years ago and individuals are no longer getting priority access to much-needed services.”

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.

The Ministry of Justice and Home Office – who share responsibility for the programme – refreshed the approach a year later. All offenders can now be managed in this way, although those who have committed sexual, violent or terrorist crimes are usually supervised under separate arrangements.

For this report, inspectors looked at a sample of cases from seven regions and found almost 40 per cent involved offenders who pose a high or very high risk of harm to others. Domestic abuse was a concern in more than half of the inspected cases.

Inspectors found the decision-making process was unclear at times and case files did not always record why police and probation officers used this approach to manage an offender. Around two-thirds of inspected plans did not spell out what individuals would be required to do as a result of being managed through a scheme.

Inspectors found less than half of the offenders in the inspected sample had access to the drug or alcohol misuse services they needed.

HM Inspector of Constabulary Wendy Williams said: “In most of the areas we visited, Police and Crime Commissioners supported local schemes and some provided additional funding to improve access to services.

“We found police in some regions were more actively engaged in the delivery of rehabilitation work than probation colleagues. For example, officers were helping individuals to complete benefits statements or taking them to appointments.

“Most of the police and probation officers we spoke to as part of this inspection did not receive any specific training in managing offenders using this multi-agency approach. Training needs to be prioritised, especially for officers working with domestic abuse perpetrators or who are involved in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.”

Inspectors found the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme had a negative impact on partnership working. In 2015, seven National Probation Service divisions and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies replaced 35 probation trusts – this created new challenges as each organisation had its own priorities and needed to buy into the approach.

Today’s report calls for greater national leadership to ensure proper oversight of the programme. The two inspectorates have also recommended improvements to data-gathering and evaluation.

Mr Russell said: “In Wales, IOM has remained a strategic priority and has strong leadership and governance in place. However, there is a lack of leadership of the programme in England, which has resulted in schemes operating independently of each other.

“There is no mechanism for reporting information to government departments or for learning and best practice to be disseminated more widely.”

At the time of the inspection, the Home Office’s system to measure the impact of the programme was only in place in 14 out of 43 police forces.

Mr Russell said: “We recommend a senior national police and probation group is established to oversee the whole programme. The Ministry of Justice and Home Office should also refresh their joint national strategy and provide clear leadership and support for the delivery of IOM and sharing of best practice locally.”

In lieu of national data, HM Inspectorate of Probation reviewed 268 cases involving individuals who had been managed through this multi-agency approach. Eight out of ten (81 per cent) said drug misuse contributed to their offending while four out of ten (40 per cent) cited the lack of accommodation as a key factor. Three-quarters (75 per cent) were being supervised by probation officers after leaving prison.

Inspectors found the quality of supervision was better for these individuals. They were 10 percentage points more likely to be adequately supervised, compared to those not involved in the scheme.

In 2014, the two inspectorates made a recommendation for a thorough evaluation of the IOM approach. This task is still outstanding nearly six years later.

Mr Russell said: “Reoffending costs the economy more than £18bn every year and 42 per cent of serving prisoners are prolific offenders. The government needs a better understanding of this programme’s effectiveness and how it can help individuals to break the cycle of offending.

“Our data shows that integrated management of offenders by police and probation can make a difference and the passion and commitment of managers and staff we talked to was evident. We saw good examples of police and probation officers going the extra mile to ensure that individuals received relevant support for complex problems.

“This sort of commitment now needs to be replicated at national level. We think an independent evaluation is needed into the costs and benefits of IOM, and to determine which types of offenders benefit most from this approach.”


Notes to editor

  1. The report is available at on 28 February 2020 00.01.
  2. HM Inspectorate of Probation is the independent inspector of youth offending and probation services across England and Wales.
  3. HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services is the independent inspector of police forces and fire & rescue services across England and Wales.
  4. Integrated Offender Management was originally set up to target prolific offenders in local communities. It should not be confused with Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA), which is used to manage sexual and violent offenders.
  5. Inspectors found 125 IOM schemes in operation across England and Wales.
  6. The estimated economic and social cost of reoffending in England and Wales is £18.1bn per year (source: Ministry of Justice).
  7. Fieldwork for this inspection took place in September and October 2019. Inspectors visited Waltham Forest, Sheffield, Stockport, Colwyn Bay, Cumbria, Surrey and Warwickshire. These regions were chosen to give a mix of metropolitan, urban, rural and coastal areas. Full details of fieldwork are available in Annex 2.
  8. For media enquiries, please contact Head of Communications Catherine Chan on 07889 405930 or (E-mail address)