Key findings

  • Persistent and prolific offenders are responsible for a disproportionate amount of burglary, theft and other acquisitive crime. This group was the original target for Integrated Offender Management.
  • Different definitions of ‘persistent offender’ yield different cohorts. Some realism is required about the potential for large-scale crime reduction by targeting relatively small numbers through multi-agency work.
  • Evaluations of Integrated Offender Management have produced mixed results. Further well-constructed studies are required to strengthen the evidence base.
  • Organisational and occupational culture clashes can be a barrier to good partnership working.


Integrated Offender Management (IOM) was originally a programme to facilitate teamworking by police, probation, and other agencies to deliver a local response to persistent and problematic offending. IOM provided an enhanced level of monitoring of those individuals identified locally as priority cases, while offering enhanced help with offending-related needs.

The approach was originally launched in 2002 as the Prolific and Persistent Offender (PPO) programme aimed to identify and rehabilitate those with six or more convictions who were believed to be responsible for most volume crime. PPO was incorporated into IOM in 2009 – the relaunch was aimed at localising priorities. The refresh led to the inclusion of participants who present higher risk of serious harm, e.g. through domestic violence, urban street gangs or weapon carrying.

Key statistics are as follows:

  • in the year ending September 2018, those with long criminal careers (those with 15 or more previous cautions or convictions) accounted for nearly two fifths (37 per cent) of the offending population. This was an increase of 10 percentage points since 2011.
  • five per cent of a 2001 cohort of offenders were found to have became chronic offenders (committing 15 or more offences) by 2009. This group was responsible for about half (49 per cent) of all proven reoffences committed by those convicted in 2009.

Summary of the evidence

Identifying the IOM cohort

Different definitions of ‘persistent offending’ have been found to produce quite different cohorts of offenders. For example, one study tested several definitions of ‘persistent offender’, including the top ten per cent in terms of offending frequency over a twelve-month period, those committing ten or more offences in any three-month period, and those arrested eight or more times during the whole year. These definitions identified different individuals, indicating that definitions of persistent offending are somewhat arbitrary and can potentially lead to inappropriate targeting.

Similarly, the 2003 Carter Report, using Home Office research, found that the persistent group (three or more convictions) was not stable. Forty percent of ‘persistent’ offenders desisted from offending without any official intervention, and were replaced each year by new cases.

We thus need to be realistic about expecting large-scale crime reduction through the targeting of a few thousand individuals, no matter how often they appear in court.

Partnership working and the impact of IOM

Partnerships between key agencies can increase effectiveness and efficiency through:

  • sharing information and ideas
  • improving the engagement and participation of stakeholders
  • avoiding duplication and tackling common problems together.

In the video below, produced by HM Inspectorate of Probation, Delphine Waring, South Yorkshire Police, and Luke Shepherd, South Yorkshire CRC, discuss effective practice for partnerships and integration in IOM.

Disclaimer: an external platform has been used to host this video. Recommendations for further viewing may appear at the end of the video and are beyond our control.

There are mixed results from formal evaluations. In a Bristol study, a cohort of 155 service users were found to be twice as likely to desist from crime as a matched comparison group. However, an evaluation of a London Diamond IOM scheme found no difference between a group of 400 participants receiving additional support after release from prison and other parolees (but it is important to note that the IOM group had higher levels of offending-related needs).

Another study, based in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, concluded that one barrier to success is the conflict of police and probation organisational cultures, both at the leadership level and the practitioner level. More generally, a gap has been highlighted between:

  • the orthodoxy that only multi-agency partnerships can tackle complex cases
  • the evidence of what precisely partnerships should do and how this should be funded.
Inspection data
The 2020 thematic inspection of IOM found little progress since the earlier 2015 inspection. Indeed, some areas had deteriorated. Although IOM cases fared significantly better than other cases across all aspects of case management, there remained worrying gaps in interventions. Around half of the cases examined did not access required substance misuse treatment, although this was more often due to low motivation and erratic behaviour rather than lack of provision.

The co-location of police, probation and other agencies had ended, despite such co-location helping with smooth communication and swift action. We further noted that the lines between police and other partners had become blurred in some areas. Police officers were undertaking rehabilitative and welfare work which would have been better delivered by probation and other partners.

The shift of IOM from volume crime to public protection work had not been matched by the necessary training and resources for this very different role. There was a lack of focus upon victim safety and poor work with key safeguarding agencies.

While inspectors saw many examples of good practice (and praised individual staff for their commitment), IOM strategic focus had been lost. We reiterated our 2015 call for a national evaluation to strengthen the evidence base for IOM.

It is… concerning that there has been no response to our recommendation for an evaluation of the costs and benefits of IOM at a national level. While there is some monitoring of performance in individual areas, there is no reporting mechanism for this information to be fed back to the relevant government departments, or for learning and best practice to be disseminated more widely…  A comprehensive evaluation would therefore provide much-needed direction both nationally and within local areas.

Key references

Carter, P. (2003). Managing Offenders, Reducing Crime: A New Approach. London: Home Office.

Hagell, A. and Newburn, T.  (1994). Persistent young offenders. London: Policy Studies Institute.

Higgins, A., Hales, G. and Chapman, J. (2016). Multi-agency case management: evidence and orthodoxy. London: The Police Foundation.

King, S., Hopkins, M. and Cornish, N. (2018). ‘Can models of organizational change help to understand ‘success’ and ‘failure’ in community sentences? Applying Kotter’s model of organizational change to an Integrated Offender Management case study’, Criminology & Criminal Justice, 18(3), pp. 273–290.

Owen, N. and Cooper, C. (2013). The Start of a Criminal Career: Does the Type of Debut Offence Predict Future Offending? Research Report 77. London: Home Office.

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Last updated: 17 May 2021