Probation Circular

FINANCE, BENEFIT AND DEBT
PURPOSE
To issue guidance to NPS areas on the provision of financial advice services to offenders. This guidance is issued within the strategic framework of the Reducing Re-Offending Action Plan. The objective is to set out best-practice and to help NPS areas to improve access to these services for offenders under supervision. REFERENCE NO: 68/2005 ISSUE DATE: 25 August 2005 IMPLEMENTATION DATE: Immediate EXPIRY DATE: August 2010 TO: Chairs of Probation Boards Chief Officers of Probation Secretaries of Probation Boards Regional Managers Regional What Works Managers CC: Board Treasurers AUTHORISED BY: Meg Blumsom, Acting Head of Community Reintegration, Interventions Unit ATTACHED: Appendix 1

ACTION
Chief Officers and relevant staff are asked to: • note the contents of this circular • include action on the provision of Finance, Benefit and Debt assistance, as advised in the attached guidance, in the Area Business Plan.

SUMMARY
This circular provides national guidance in response to the key action area of Finance, Benefit and Debt in the Reducing Re-offending National Action Plan.

RELEVANT PREVIOUS PROBATION CIRCULARS
PC04/2005 Money Payment Supervision Orders PC 09/2005 Finance, Benefit and Debt

CONTACT FOR ENQUIRIES
Randel Barrows – 020 7217 8323 randel.barrows@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk Marcus Smart – 020 7217 0766 marcus.smart@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

National Probation Directorate
Horseferry House, Dean Ryle Street, London, SW1P 2AW

The Reducing Re-offending National Action Plan (RRNAP) provides the strategic direction for achieving the Government’s target of reducing crime, and outlines how other departments and agencies can contribute to its implementation. The Plan outlines specific action points in seven key action areas, one of which is Finance, Benefit and Debt (FBD). PC 09/2005 advised areas of the objective set for the NPS, by the Plan, to provide improved access to financial services and advice for offenders. The circular also sought feedback from Areas on existing good practice in the local provision of financial advice related services. The responses received included information on the various models of local delivery and the range of partnership arrangements to meet local circumstances and resource. This local intelligence helped to inform the development of this guidance. A number of areas also identified the current resources committed to FBD work. In the short term, no specific new resources will be available to NPS areas for the development of this area of work, so a key theme of the guidance is about making use of existing resources in the community or through local partnership arrangements. Local resources and facilities are extremely varied, so the availability of the arrangements set out as examples in the guidance will depend on the local position.

PC68/2005 – Finance, Benefit and Debt

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The provision of financial services for offenders under the supervision of the National Probation Service 1. INTRODUCTION 1.1 ‘Finance, Benefit and Debt’ is one of the Reducing Re-offending Pathways in the National Action Plan. Currently there is no NPS policy on how Probation Areas should address the needs of offenders with financial problems relating to their offending. This document offers a guidance to good practice. The guidance is informed by practice throughout the Probation Areas as reported to the NPD in a questionnaire in early 2005. All probation Areas were contacted and 28 probation areas responded to the survey; a 67% response rate, covering over 76% of the national caseload. 1.2 The guidance sets the work in context, highlights the principles required to underpin any delivery system, recommends best practice issues, discusses the essential elements of diagnosis and screening, sets out the responsibilities of staff at various grades and identifies the pros and cons of different models of delivery based on experience from Areas. Appendix 1 provides an example of an outline Policy/ Implementation Plan , Appendix 2 provides an example of an FBD assessment and Appendix 3 lists avenues of further support and assistance both for staff and direct advice for those in need. 2. OVERVIEW 2.1 Finance, benefit and debt are recognised criminogenic issues. The NPD national action plan states that ensuring ex offenders have sufficient lawfully obtained money to live on is a prerequisite to their rehabilitation, but recognises that offenders face significant problems in achieving that security. Debt, disrupted access to benefits, insufficient funds on release from prison and low incomes all contribute to financial difficulties that can be a barrier to effective rehabilitation. 2.2 OASys weights finance, benefit and debt as a significant factor on the same level as accommodation, relationships and interpersonal behaviour. The available research (May 1999; Raynor et al 2000) has identified a relationship between financial problems and reconviction and improved financial management and income as a good predictor of desistance from crime. The Home Office report Statistics on Women and the Criminal Justice System 2002 found that the most common reason given for offending by women(54% of cases) was lack of money. 2.3 OASys figures identify around 22% of offenders nationally as having a raw score of 5 or more in Section 5: Financial Management and Income. This clearly varies from Area to Area and within Areas ranging from 17% to 33%. Some responses to the survey gave figures for offenders experiencing financial difficulties in their Areas. These range from 50% to 75%.The level of financial difficulty and need identified varies significantly, and is not directly linked to offending behaviour in all of these cases. 2.4 In addition to the problems caused by simple lack of income, management of income is a pathway to the improved coping styles and attitudes that are also linked to a reduction in re1

offending. Work on finance, benefit and debt is therefore an appropriate response to an individual that may also contribute to successful rehabilitation. 3. PRINCIPLES A good system should be based on the following principles, which are applicable in any approach to delivery: 3.1 Accessibility The service needs to be accessible, both for offenders and staff. Whichever model of delivery is used people must be aware of and able to access the service at the point of need. Staff must clearly understand what is expected of them when dealing with finance, benefit and debt. Staff should have sufficient knowledge of finance, debt and benefit issues to be able to identify a problem. Offenders also should have clear information on what is available and how it can be accessed independently of probation staff. 3.2 Quality Areas need to satisfy themselves as to the suitability and quality of the service, this includes appropriate confidentiality and attention to diversity issues. 3.3 Consistency Areas should seek to ensure consistency and equality when dealing with offenders’ finance, benefit and debt needs. The aim should be for an offender entering the system at any point, and in any part of the particular Area to receive the same level of assistance with finance, benefit and debt needs as another offender with similar needs in a different locality in the Area. Clearly this is not always possible but the aim should be to provide as consistent and equal a service as possible, prioritised where necessary on the basis of the offenders identified offending related needs. 3.4 Effective community links Another objective of effective re-integration is for offenders to have the confidence and knowledge to access community agencies when future problems occur. An effective service delivery model will aim to equip an offender with the skills and knowledge to seek advice from appropriate sources beyond any period of supervision. This principle applies to any approach. For example, while a partnership model may appear to offer more potential in this respect, an in-house service can achieve this by having good links with, and knowledge of community providers. 3.5 Monitoring and Evaluation Monitoring procedures for measuring the level and effectiveness of finance, benefit and debt interventions are required. There should also be a system of seeking and analysing feedback from service users, probation staff and any partnership referral agencies. 4. BEST PRACTICE A effective local system should include the following elements of best practice: 2

4.1 Targeting Where an offender scores 5 or more on financial issues (section 5) contributing to offending, the supervising officer should always identify further action in the sentence plan. If FBD issues are assessed as criminogenic they need to be actioned through recorded and enforceable appointments. 4.2 Effective referral Delivery of the action planned in the sentence plan will vary according to the service delivery method in each Area, but staff need to be clear about what assessment and referral process is required of them. 4.3 Assessment and interventions work with offenders Arrangements for the delivery of financial work, directly or through partnership agencies should clearly state the nature and level of the services to be offered. In every case the minimum should be a full finance benefit and debt assessment to identify the work required to improve the offender’s financial circumstances. Following this assessment, the necessary action to maximise income needs to be undertaken. In most instances this will involve direct work with the offender. Examples include helping to balance expenditure with income, drafting letters of claim or appeal, and re-negotiation of debt repayments. Local knowledge and liaison, for example with Job Centre Plus staff, and housing office staff is useful in finance, benefit and debt work. 4.4 Advice to staff The local finance, benefit and debt service should also offer ad hoc ad to advice staff to answer a specific query, or just to check whether a full referral is required. 4.5 Links with employment objectives Work on finance, benefit and debt relating to offending should be linked with other work linked to Sentence Plan objectives, often this will include employment training and education (ETE) and accommodation work. Recent research from the Learning and Skills Council found that offenders frequently requested advice on housing and benefits at the same time as seeking learning, training or employment opportunities. Work on obtaining or improving employment will often be a Sentence Plan objective identified as an end in itself. Whilst in the long term employment can improve or stabilise the financial position it can often be difficult to improve finances through employment immediately. Many offenders may start work in temporary, casual and relatively low paid jobs where advice on any benefit entitlement may be vital to increase the chances of successful transition to work. Many offenders who successfully gain employment are likely to be eligible for in- work benefits. The government has put significant amounts of money into in- work benefits such as tax credits (eg child tax credit can be paid up to quite high levels of income). There are also incentives such as discretionary payments and extended housing benefit in order to encourage people to make entry into work . 4.6 Physical location of service Where finance, benefit and debt advice is being delivered via a partner agency, the survey reported that surgeries held at probation premises appeared to be most effective. Telephone advice schemes report mixed results. (see the examples below.) 3

4.7 Procedures for charitable applications Voluntary and charity application can be part of assisting in income maximisation once all statutory sources of assistance have been exhausted. Each Area will need to decide how it wishes to address this - is it something it wishes a partner agency to undertake on the offenders behalf, or is there a role for an offender manager who has detailed knowledge of the case? 4.8 Planning for longer term community re-integration As outlined in the Principles paragraph above, one of the aims of any system deployed in an Area should be to encourage offenders to use and contact community resources Thus where an ex-offender needs advice or assistance with financial issues, there is the knowledge and confidence to approach advice agencies (or other sources) who can assist and help solve the problem legitimately. 5. POSSIBLE MODELS OF DELIVERY 5.1 Offender Managers are able to provide an initial assessment within OASys but they are not usually equipped to give the specific and detailed help and support needed for effective finance, benefit and debt work. Normally, any specific FBD objectives identified in a Sentence Plan should be undertaken as specialist interventions work. 5.2 The survey showed that some Areas currently rely on liaison with Jobcentre Plus or other DWP staff as the primary source of finance, benefit and debt work. Good liaison with these agencies is helpful in improving communication, streamlining and removing obstacles to claims, and improving understanding of systems. However, there will be occasions where there is a particular problem, and a need to pursue an issue that may benefit from independent advice. Other sources of Welfare rights and money advice can provide advice and advocacy that is both more extensive and is fully independent of the providers of benefit. Links with specialist advice agencies such as welfare rights bureaux or law centres can therefore be advantageous. 5.3 For all finance, benefit and debt needs there are two possible approaches: providing education, information and advice direct to the offender, or having in place a system to ensure offenders receive the assistance and advice available in the community. Essentially it is a choice between a dedicated service for offenders or a service dedicated to ensuring offenders use existing community facilities (where they exist). It is well known that it is insufficient to simply signpost offenders to community facilities. Even with in- house arrangements attendance rates are reported as 48 -65%, and some Areas estimate attendance of around 10% where offenders are simply referred to existing community agencies. This problem illustrates the two pre-requisites of an effective service previously referred to: 1. Effective assessment and targeting through OASys and the Sentence Plan and 2. ensuring that all FBD appointments are both recorded and enforceable. 5.4 Delivery Options: Perceived Advantages Information and advice from in-house specialist staff

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Flexible. There is no problem of recording, ownership of information or collecting of statistics as all is within the domain of the Area. The service can be holistic and tailored very much to the needs of the offender profile of the area. Staff resources are relatively flexible. Easy to link to other Sentence Plan Objectives eg using money management as a vehicle for acquisition basic skills learning. Useful where there is no obvious local provider, or for a large geographic area, or where there are very few local community organisations to assist. Easier for advisor to gain an understanding of the particular needs of offenders and the criminal justice system. Can provide training to other staff to recognise finance benefit and debt issues and take appropriate action Links with other staff in the organisation, particularly offender managers, are routine

• • • • •

5.5 • • • •

Providing an information and advice service through a partnership agency Advice sessions can be provided at probation premises. Partner agency is outside the Criminal Justice system and can be perceived as such by offenders, who may value independent advice Provide added value- offenders can get fast-tracked to other specialist or casework assistance provided by the partner. A third party contact who can reinforce pro-social attitudes and behaviour

5.6 Volunteers or mentors accompanying offenders to community advice agencies • • • Champions the long term aim of encouraging and assisting offenders to use community organisations. Mentors can be used for other tasks as well; assisting offenders get to other appointments, general skill enhancing and coping mechanisms. May be particularly useful for money management work

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Access to independent advice.

6. Examples of different types of FBD provision in Probation Areas. In- house specialists – Nottinghamshire The Accommodation and Benefits Advice Unit (ABA) provides a finance benefit and debt service in- house. The Unit comprises 2 managers, 1 welfare rights adviser, 1 benefit adviser (back to work and in benefits) and 2 accommodation development workers. The managers are also experienced debt and benefit advisers. All are employed directly by the Nottinghamshire Area; one post is funded by Drug Intervention Programme and one by the Neighbourhood Renewal Fund. The Unit provides a benefit and debt advice line for staff surgery sessions and an appointment referral system. Much of the work is dealt with via telephone contact and this is perceived as cost effective since more cases can be dealt with than on a face to face appointment system and there is no resource waste through failure to attend appointments. In effect this is a second tier advice service where the offender manager can be present with the offender at the end of the telephone and the adviser at the other. A referral system for face to face appointment also exists for more complex cases and a surgery is run in some parts of the area. The ABA unit believe there is significant extra value in providing housing and accommodation advice alongside finance benefit and debt issues. Expertise in both areas is often required as debt and benefit problems are often linked to housing and homelessness issues. The ABA Unit combines financial and housing advice expertise to address problems. Money management learning is currently offered on a one to one basis by the Unit workers. The Unit are exploring the scope of extending this coaching and advice on budgeting skills/money management under the new Specified Activity Orders.

Large area partnership – Northumbria and West Midlands Northumbria Northumbria Area has three finance benefit and debt partnerships. There is an area wide anti poverty adviser who provides both strategic and operational advice. This post also provides training and awareness to staff and administers two ‘in house’ charitable trust funds to make charitable grants to individuals. Charitable assistance is only applied for once all statutory sources of assistance have been exhausted. The other two partnerships are with local advice 6

agencies (a CAB and a Law Centre) that provide around half the offender management teams with a half day surgery each week, where offenders are referred for face to face assistance. The Area approach is that staff make a referral where finance benefit and debt issues are identified as an offending linked need in OASys (a score of 5 or more). Addressing these issues is then included in the Sentence Plan. In the teams with access to the partnerships referral is direct to the surgery, in the other teams to community based advice centres. The anti poverty adviser provides information on appropriate agencies to which referral can be made and one area has negotiated fast track referral to local community agencies. Northumbria also produce a help book for prisoners from remand to release which outlines finance, benefit and debt issues for those in prison on remand and sentence and also on release.

West Midlands Finance benefit and debt services are delivered by partnership agencies and managed by the partnership and interventions division. Service level agreements operate in most of the districts – in three districts with the local CAB and in one with Birmingham Money Advice and Guidance. In another three districts offenders are signposted on a voluntary basis to existing community provision. In the four districts with a finance benefit and debt partnership, benefits and debt work are split reasonably similarly; in all but one district debt issues exceed benefit issues, in the other they are the same. Between 36% and 38% of enquiries are benefit issues, 37% to 50% debt and 16% to 25% other financial issues. Probation staff make referrals where finance benefit and debt issues are identified as an offending linked need in OASys and where action on these issues is included in the sentence plan. The added value of the partnerships is that they enable fast track access to specialist community provision where complex issues are assessed. The confidentiality and information sharing aspects in these cases is being addressed by the offender signing a confidentiality waiver.

Smaller area partnership – Warwickshire There is a county wide money advice service provided in partnership with Warwick district CAB. There is a full time CAB money adviser and a part time administrator. The service offers face to face appointments at probation offices, and ongoing casework. Referrals are targeted at offenders whose financial problems are strongly linked to their offending or potential to reoffend. The referral target of 75 offenders per annum has already been exceeded.

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There is a shortage of debt counselling services in the area. Maximising benefits and income potential is work undertaken by ETE advisers as part of ETE work. The Area believe that offenders and staff involved in progressing employment health and housing issues would undoubtedly benefit from access to benefit advice services. Discussions are taking place with basic skills providers on the provision of money management training.

Volunteer partnership – Hertfordshire There is no specific contracted provision but two partnerships provide FBD services for some offenders. Advice, assistance and mentoring are provided by volunteers recruited trained and managed by SOVA and this includes some debt advice work. There is an accommodation partnership covering one of four centres and this includes finance benefit and debt in dealing with rent arrears, Housing Benefit entitlement and other related issues. Extension of the use of volunteers for FBD work is being explored .

6.5 Telephone Advice Model – Kent Kent has a partnership contract with a dedicated CAB providing telephone advice. The service provides advice and support to offenders regarding money/welfare matters. The partnership is county wide consisting of telephone consultancies, casework information, and advice and training on welfare benefits and debt counseling. Occasionally the casework requires face to face counseling. The CAB project can provide some support for money management but the demand for Debt and Benefits work have left limited capacity for this. In practice Money management support is provided, if requested, by supervising officers.

Money Management Money management skills are an important component of the Finance, Benefit and Debt agenda. Responses from Areas indicate that this is the least developed component. Far fewer areas provide money management learning than provide general finance, benefit and debt advice. Only one Area described a comprehensive system; others that did provide some 8

learning (60%) all acknowledge that it was limited. The most common provision was money management work in approved premises, while some Areas targeted offenders on DTTOs (DRR) or other intensive interventions and one stated that their women’s groups always addressed this issue Specific Money Management Tools A small number of areas have specific tools for money management learning. These include budgeting sheets and locally developed step- by- step guides. A few areas have recognised the potential of linking money management to Basic Skills and Skills For Life work. Bank Accounts Two Areas promote bank accounts, each had made arrangements with a local bank to streamline applications for offenders. Getting offenders Bank accounts was a problem identified by a large number of areas: with identification and address verification identified as the biggest obstacles.

Money management : national developments The NPD provided initial pilot funding to the SWing (South West Integration Team) resettlement partnership to explore the development of a money management tool that can be used in custody and in the community. This work is being developed with Manchester Metropolitan University and the emphasis is on creating learning modules to assist with skills development. The model being developed uses gaming/simulation and may offer an innovative process of engagement in a learning environment, focusing on the development of personal financial skills Further development of this work in the context of wider strategic planning is being taken forward with the NOMS Community Integration Unit. These developments will be disseminated to Areas in due course.

APPENDIX 1

Finance, Benefit and Debt Policy Objectives and Implementation Plan: an outline example. 9

POLICY OBJECTIVE

1. To ensure that every offender for whom finance is identified as a criminogenic factor will be offered a route to support and advice on finance, benefit and debt issues . . Where an OASys assessment scores a raw score of 5 or more on financial issues the offender manager will consider including an objective in the supervision plan to address these issues. This does not preclude other ways of identifying financial inclusion. Sentence Plans should include SMART objectives in some or all of the following areas: • • • • Money Management: problems of money management that can be addressed. Benefit entitlement: assessment and action re. weekly maintenance benefits, in work benefits, and one off support such as community care grants Debt: Identify nature of problem and where help and assistance is available Charitable assistance: This may include money payments and in-kind assistance eg clothing and furniture stores.

2. The Area will nominate staff with designated responsibility for financial inclusion issues. Such staff will take responsibility at their appropriate level for strategy issues, disseminating information, resource identification partnership arrangements ( including information exchange) and quality assurance. 3. The Area will identify and arrange appropriate learning and training for staff on finance awareness, money management, debt and benefit issues. 4. The Area will identify and disseminate information on charitable assistance.

Appendix 2 Example of Finance, Benefit and Debt Assessment Form

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Following initial identification of a problem through OASys , this ‘second tier’ assessment form is intended for completion by the offender in the presence of a member of staff from the FBD provider. Name: Address: Phone: Partner’s Details Partner’s Name: D.O.B NI.no Children’s Details Child One Name: Child Two Name: Child Three Name: D.O.B NI. no

D.O.B D.O.B D.O.B

Which Benefits do you receive? (Please tick all that apply) Contribution Based JSA Child Benefit Income Based JSA Housing Benefit Incapacity Benefit Council Tax Benefit Severe Disablement Allowance Child Tax Credit Disability Living Allowance Working Tax Credit Care Rate – High (H) Medium(M) Low (L) Carer’s Allowance Mobility Rate – High (H) or Low (L) Other? Do you have any other income? – Maintenance, wages etc If yes, please provide details: Do you or a family member have a sickness or disability? If yes, please state who, nature of illness and length of illness: Do you or a family member have care or mobility needs? If yes, please provide details: If on JSA are you currently subject to a sanction? If yes, what for and length of sanction: Yes/No

Yes/No

Yes/No

Yes/No

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Do you have rent arrears from your current or previous address? If yes, please state amount and the dates that the arrears are for:

Yes/No

Do Have you been in prison? If yes, please provide dates of custody (remand and sentenced): What benefits were you on prior to custody? Is there a need for Social Fund help? (please tick all that apply) • • • • • Funeral Expenses payment Maternity Expenses payment Budgeting Loan Crisis Loan Community Care Grant (i.e. clothing on leaving prison, furniture to set up home, travel expenses etc)

Yes/No

Yes/No

Do you have water rate arrears? If yes, please state amount and provide Account reference No and signed authorisation to contact relevant Water Board. For those in employment or entering employment How many hours per week? Wage/Salary? Hours and income of partner Ages of children Eligibility for back to work benefits? etc, etc

Yes/No

APPENDIX 3 Useful Information Sources and Websites

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The Helpbook for prisoners – remand to release. Provides detailed guidance and outlines useful tactics on benefits, accommodation and handling debts. Includes sample letters and checklist of action at each stage. Although aimed at prisoners the section on release is relevant for offenders in the community. Available from Northumbria Probation Area. Advice guide www.adviceguide.org.uk Citizens advice guide gives basic advice and information on social security matters as well as contact details for local citizens advice bureaux for more detailed advice. Age concern www.ace.org.uk useful range of factsheets including benefits issues for older people. Credit unions. There is limited information on the available credit union websites. Try www.nacuw.org.uk or type abcul uk into a search engine. Local authorities may have more up to date lists of local activity. Child Poverty Action Group produce excellent guides on all aspects of benefits. www.cpag.org.uk Just Ask www.justask.org.uk Online directory of quality marked advice agencies and solicitors providing legal advice on subjects such as welfare rights housing, employment, matrimonial and debt. Some agencies are free, others charge but where there is a charge (e.g. for solicitors) this is clearly highlighted. This site is maintained by the Community Legal Service. Rightsnet www.rightsnet.org.uk This is a news resources and discussion board for welfare rights advisers, but it can have topics that are useful for all. The Tax Credit website is quite helpful – if a person provide details of income and circumstances they can get a ‘no obligation’ assessment of entitlement to child tax credit and working tax credit. www.taxcredits.inlandrevenue.gov.uk

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