Print this page
Thursday, 04 April 2013

New service will improve access to reoffending data

Written by The Guardian
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling explains why the new Justice Data Lab is a positive development for the charity sector

Voluntary sector organisations will be able to access more information about what works to reduce reoffending, due to a new service introduced today.

The Justice Data Lab, run by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and developed with support from New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), can be used to access high quality reoffending data. All organisations working with offenders will be able to use it, but it is anticipated the highest demand will come from the voluntary sector.

Data from organisations working with offenders will be matched with national records to produce reoffending rates for different groups of individuals. This will be compared with a control group to prove the effectiveness of a particular intervention.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has explained that the new service is a positive development for voluntary sector organisations that want to see the impact of their work.

He said: "Since becoming Justice Secretary I've seen first hand many fantastic rehabilitation programmes being run by voluntary and social sector organisations.

"I've witnessed the important and innovative work they do, including getting offenders off drugs, into employment, sorting out their housing and helping them maintain crucial links with their family and children.

"But time and again frontline staff give me the same message - 'we can clearly see the benefit of our work in the lives that we turn around each and every day, but how do we prove this with hard facts and figures?' Given voluntary and charity organisations don't have vast resources to commission expensive, detailed studies this comes as little surprise and it's something I want to address.

"That's why today we're opening the Justice Data Lab, which will for the first-time provide organisations with high-quality reoffending data matched to their interventions and tailored to their needs. This will enable them to demonstrate the outcomes they achieve, to maximise their impact and to make the case for what they do."

The service has been set up as part of the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda, which proposes a greater role for voluntary and private sector organisations in tackling reoffending. It is being trialled for a year and the aim is to make it a permanent fixture.

"Earlier this year I set out reforms to bring down our stubbornly high reoffending rates by focusing on what works in rehabilitation, and by rewarding providers for real reductions in reoffending," Grayling said. "The Justice Data Lab is a key part of delivering our plans. I believe these reforms will bring together the best of the voluntary, private and public sectors. The voluntary sector has a long history in working with offenders, and through this new initiative they will now be able to prove their track record. That means they will be better placed to play a full part in our reforms, competing on a level playing field to deliver a service that really works to reduce reoffending.

"Through sharing the data, we will also build a library of valuable information that can be used to inform rehabilitation services up and down the country, creating a culture of best practice and transparency, driving better outcomes and creating safer communities. This will mean less crime, fewer victims and better value for taxpayers."

Dan Corry, chief executive at New Philanthropy Capital, who worked with the government on the service, said: "We are very pleased the Ministry of Justice has acted so swiftly to set up the Justice Data Lab. Access to reoffending data will enable voluntary sector organisations to prove their efficacy and fine-tune their services. This is particularly pertinent as the payment by results approach starts to sweep through the criminal justice system."