Co-creating rehabilitation: Findings from a pilot and implications for wider public service reform

AuthorSusan Baines,Chris Fox,Jordan Harrison,Andrew Smith,Caroline Marsh
Published date01 December 2022
Date01 December 2022
Subject MatterArticles
rehabilitation: Findings
from a pilot and
implications for wider
public service reform
Susan Baines, Chris Fox ,
Jordan Harrison,
and Andrew Smith
Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
Caroline Marsh
Independent Consultant
As part of a large pan-European project on co-creating public services we supported
the design of a programme in England that attempted to operationalise research on
desistance, through a model of co-created, strengths-based working. We then evalu-
ated its implementation and impact. The programme was implemented in a
Community Rehabilitation Company. It was delivered in the context of rapid organ-
isational change, often in response to rapidly changing external events and a turbu-
lent policy environment. These factors impeded implementation. An impact evaluation
did not identify a statistically signif‌icant difference in re-offending rates between the
intervention group and a comparator group. However, in-depth qualitative evalu-
ation identif‌ied positive examples of co-production and co-creation, with individual
case managers and service users supportive and noting positive change. Taken as
a whole our f‌indings suggest that a co-created, strengths-based model of probation
case management is promising but needs to be accompanied by wider systems
change if it is to be embedded successfully.
Corresponding Author:
Chris Fox, Sociology, Manchester Metropolitan University, GM316, Geoffrey Manton Building, Rosamond
St West, Manchester M15 6LL, UK.
Article The Journal of Communit
and Criminal Justice
Probation Journal
2022, Vol. 69(4) 452471
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/02645505211065683
co-creation, co-production, strengths-based, personalisation, desistance, evaluation
As part of a large pan-European project on co-creating public services and building
on previous piloting work in the UK (Fox et al., 2018), we supported the design of
My Direction and then evaluated its implementation and impact.
My Direction
sought to implement personalised, co-produced and co-created models of case man-
agement in a probation setting in England. Underpinning this research was an inter-
est in exploring ways to operationalisedesistance theory, within which
personalisation and co-production are strongly implied. In this paper we f‌irst set
out the key concepts and theory that framed the project before going on to describe
My Direction and our evaluation methodology. We then set out key f‌indings from the
evaluation before moving on to discuss these f‌indings and their implications for oper-
ationalising desistance theory in criminal justice settings as well as for wider public
service reform.
Desistance, personalisation and co-creation
My Direction was an attempt to operationalise desistance, drawing on concepts of
personalisation, co-production, co-creation, and strengths-based working. Research
and theory about why and how people desist from offending has become increas-
ingly inf‌luential in the English criminal justice system (McNeill et al., 2012; Ward
and Maruna, 2007). McNeill (2009: 28) argues that desistance thinking suggests
that, when it comes to rehabilitation One-size-f‌its-all processes and interventions
will not work. However, a challenge posed by desistance research is that it is
not readily translated into straightforward prescriptions for practice(Weaver
and McNeill, 2010: 6) although this is not necessarily problematic, because devel-
oping a prescriptive model of practise would undermine the personalised
approaches it implies.
Desistance implies personalised approaches are required where tailored life
plans that recognise an offenders assets as well as their criminogenic risk factors
are central (McNeill, 2009). This requires new approaches to assessment and sen-
tence planning, new training for staff and rethinking the language of practise
(McNeill et al., 2012). In the UK, personalisation is most developed within the
health and social care sectors. Fox et al. (2013) have argued that the criminal
justice sector could learn from social care when considering the challenge of reform-
ing the criminal justice system and developing innovative approaches to offender
Personalisation is closely linked to strengths or asset-based ways of working. The
starting point for many public services is that they try to f‌ix things for people in the
short-term or encourage them to take action that f‌its the services priorities, not
their own (Wilson et al., 2018). This is a def‌icit-based approach that:
Baines et al. 453

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