Supporting offenders with multiple needs

AuthorMike Hough,Tim McSweeney
Published date01 February 2006
Date01 February 2006
Subject MatterArticles
Supporting offenders with
multiple needs:
Lessons for the mixed economy model
of service provision
Kings College London, UK
This article draws on an evaluation of a large-scale programme in
London, From Dependency to Work (D2W), to discuss the
obstacles to effective work with offenders with multiple needs.
D2W, a f‌ive-year programme funded through the Single
Regeneration Budget, aimed to support offenders with a range of
multiple needs including drug dependence, mental health issues,
employment problems and illiteracy. It was an ambitious
programme that sought to co-ordinate the work of statutory and
voluntary agencies in a similar way to the mixed economy model
envisaged for the National Offender Management Service (NOMS);
that met with implementation problems, which limited its overall
impact. These related in part to problems in f‌inding ways of
effectively assessing those with multiple needs, and planning a
rational sequence of interventions; but the way in which the
programme was performance-managed also destabilized the
partnership to a considerable degree. The study carries important
lessons for NOMS, both in relation to approaches to offender
management and to contract management.
Key Words
drug treatment employment schemes NOMS offender needs
This article summarizes the lessons for working with offenders with
multiple needs that derive from a f‌ive-year evaluation of a demonstration
Criminology & Criminal Justice
© 2006 SAGE Publications
(London, Thousand Oaks & New Delhi)
and the British Society of Criminology.
ISSN 17488958; Vol: 6(1): 107125
DOI: 10.1177/1748895806060669
project in London called From Dependency to Work (D2W). The
programme ran from 1999 to 2004, and we evaluated it throughout its
life. As its name implies, it targeted offenders with drug problems who
needed help to become job ready or to f‌ind work. The novel feature of
the programme was its recognition that many such offenders had multiple
needs, including not only drug dependence and unemployment, but also
mental health problems, illiteracy, housing needs and so on, that had to
be met in a coordinated way. D2W was certainly forward-thinking
and ambitious, in that it tried to co-ordinate the work of statutory and
voluntary agencies to ensure speedy access to appropriate services and
promote multi-agency partnership by designing an integrated process for
dealing with multiple needs in a similar way to the mixed economy model
that is now envisaged for NOMS. In a sense, it was experimenting with a
system of offender management some time before the Carter Report
recommended this (Carter, 2003). The programme itself is described in a
little more detail later.
As we shall discuss, there are good reasons for thinking that the
probation and prison services, and related voluntary sector organizations
increasingly have to deal with offenders with multiple needs. Especially
among persistent offenders, drug dependence, mental health problems,
illiteracy and unemployability now co-exist as a complex web of diff‌icul-
ties. This reality is not yet ref‌lected in work with offenders, which tends to
assume that each problem needs to be dealt with separately. Mirroring this,
evaluations of programmes have almost exclusively focused on single-
need interventions.
As will become clear, D2W achieved partial success, and this article is
concerned primarily with the reasons for implementation failure. It will
describe how working with offenders with multiple needs poses knotty
problems associated both with assessment and with the sequencing of
support for offenders. We tentatively suggest that some resolution to these
problems may be found within the desistance paradigm, in contrast to the
more traditional rehabilitative model best exemplif‌ied by cognitive behav-
ioural programmes. However, we shall also suggest that there are quite
diff‌icult issues relating to both policy and practice that need to be sorted
out before the type of approach envisaged by D2W can be successfully
implemented. To anticipate our main themes:
Offenders problems (or criminogenic needs) tend to be complex and
intertwined, and they are likely to need multi-disciplinary support in
disengaging from crime.
Little thought is currently given to the sequencing of this support from
different helping professionals.
Getting helping professionals from different disciplines to carry out ge-
neric assessments is probably essential for effective joint work, but in
practice is fraught with problems.
Criminology & Criminal Justice 6(1)108

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