The National Audit Office has blamed the poor use of IT as a key reason for the inability of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to reduce reoffending rates.
The MoJ’s attempts to reform the way probation services, under the banner “Transforming Rehabilitation,” has made progress in some areas but weaknesses in IT systems remain a problem, according to the NAO.
Among the issues raised is a lack of integration between systems, meaning employees having to enter the same data on several different systems.
“The various IT systems used in probation casework create severe inefficiencies. New tools used by the National Probation Service (NPS) for assessing and allocating offenders are cumbersome and require repeated data re-entry,” said the NAO report.
“Staff also attributed several hours per person per week of lost working time to nDelius, the main probation case management system adopted before the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. The NPS expects to continue using these systems for the foreseeable future,” it added.
Among the MoJ reforms were 21 new community rehabilitation companies (CRCs), set up to supervise low-risk offenders. The National Offender Management Service (Noms), an agency of the MoJ, was due to create an interface to share data on case management with CRCs by June last year. However, this was delayed “due to other priorities and increased scope”.
This has led to increased costs for CRCs and these have not been paid by the MoJ. The MoJ said the interface has now been developed and awaits testing with CRCs.
Amyas Morse, head of the NAO, said: “The ministry has successfully restructured the probation landscape and avoided major disruptions in service, but this is only the beginning.
“The NPS is not yet operating as a truly national, sustainable service and the ministry needs to address operational issues, many of which are long standing, such as weaknesses in ICT systems.
“The ministry also needs to have a deeper understanding of risks associated with reduced business for CRCs. Achieving value for money will require the resolution of these fundamental issues.”