By Colin Marrs

12 Feb 2015

What happened when the National Offender Management Service tried something new...

In 2010, the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) introduced two pilots to test its theory that outcome-based contracts were likely to achieve better results than traditional models of service delivery. Ian Poree, director of rehabilitation services at NOMS, says: “The idea was to open up the market to a wider range of providers while transferring some of the risk to the contractors.”

At Peterborough, a social impact bond model was chosen: 17 bodies invested £5m in rehabilitation interventions for three groups of 1,000 male offenders sentenced to less than a year. Investors would get their money back if reoffending dropped below pre-defined levels. At Doncaster, Serco, in partnership with charities Catch 22 and Turning Point, saw a proportion of its contract value reliant on a fall.

The results for the first cohort at Peterborough saw reconviction rates 8.4% lower compared to a national control group. This was tantalisingly short of the 10% required for an early repayment but the pilot is still on track to achieve an overall target of 7.5% across all three groups – which will unlock another reimbursement. At Doncaster, reconviction rates fell 5.7% from the baseline year of 2009 – which met the 5% threshold required for full contract payment.

The pilots were challenging, given it was the first time the MoJ had used an outcome-based contract model. Poree says: “We had to mobilise a market to take part but strike a balance between ensuring the court sentences were delivered while ensuring flexibility to the providers to meet the outcomes.”

Measuring success was also crucial, with such large financial rewards at stake for government and its contractors. An independent process to test the outcomes was used to ensure confidence in the results.

The scheme has now been scrapped as part of wider probation reforms at the MoJ. But Poree says that the successful pilots were far from a waste. “The mainstream solution has been able to learn from what was effective, which helped us attract bidders for the probation contracts,” he says. 

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