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What Works aims to reduce re-offending by ensuring that all probation work is based on
evidence of success. The purpose is simple: to help probation areas to deliver effective,
well-designed, well-targeted programmes which work.

Enforcement, rehabilitation and public protection ISSUE

– JANUARY 2002
This leaflet explains the What Works initiative - an important development in probation which will
affect sentencing practice in the future. It will be of particular interest to you if you are a sentencer, or are
involved in the criminal justice system in any way.

1. INTRODUCTION comprehensive structures and processes are in place to

monitor the quality of delivery, not just of programmes but of
What Works aims to reduce re-offending, by ensuring that each session of each programme.
probation practice is based on interventions which:
ƒ are based on evidence of effectiveness; 3. THE KEY ELEMENTS OF WHAT WORKS
ƒ are delivered to a consistent standard across the
country; and Offending Behaviour Programmes
ƒ are accessible and effective for all groups of offenders.
One of the first tasks has been to establish a set of accredited
programmes which are proven to be successful. Through the
Separate arrangements apply in the Youth Courts. The Youth
Pathfinder pilot programme the National Probation Service
Justice Board is developing guidance on effective practice for
has already developed nine programmes which have been
the work of Youth Offending Teams and envisages
accredited, two provisionally accredited, and others are
introducing it (in discussion with representatives of the Courts)
currently being developed. They include general offending
during 2002 & 2003.
behaviour programmes as well as specialist programmes
aimed at drug & alcohol misuse, sexual offences, and
The National Probation Service aims to reduce re- offences involving violence.
offending by 5% by 2004. Evidence published in October
2002 (National Statistics) indicates that reconviction by Each programme is submitted to the Correctional Services
those on community penalties has already fallen by 3.1% Accreditation Panel (CSAP) (formerly the Joint
against the predicted level of reconviction. Within this Prison/Probation Accreditation Panel), a body of independent
overall figure, Community Rehabilitation Orders with a experts set up to ensure the effectiveness of interventions
condition for a specific activity (the precursor to accredited
with offenders.
programmes) achieved a 4.9% reduction against the
predicted reconviction rate, as did Community
Punishment Orders. Once formally accredited, each programme forms part of the
menu of top-quality interventions known as the core
Figures from Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate, curriculum, which is being introduced in every probation area.
October 2002

Offender Assessment
Matching offenders to appropriate programmes is the key to
success in reducing re-offending. The implementation of a
new system for the assessment of offenders (OASys) will
mean that Pre-Sentence Reports will be based on a thorough
Risk (deliver in the right dosage)
assessment of the factors affecting an offender's likelihood of
The frequency, intensity, sequencing and spacing of the
re-offending, and will produce firm proposals on the type of
programme should reflect the seriousness and persistence of
intervention most likely to reduce this risk. OASys will form
the offending, and the range and gravity of the offending-
the basis of assessment throughout the Prison and
related factors.
Probation Services.
Need (address the problems which lead to crime)
The programme should aim to change the factors which
Community Reintegration
caused the offender to commit crime. Community reintegration is crucial to achieving long-term
change in an offender's behaviour. Research shows that work
Responsivity (help offenders to respond) to address problems such as homelessness, lack of basic
The programme should use methods which engage offenders skills, unemployment and substance misuse is a vital
and to which they can respond, including approaches ingredient of any effective intervention.
designed for women and minority ethnic offenders. The right
operating conditions for these methods should be clearly ‘Pathfinder’ projects to establish the most effective ways of
specified. supporting reintegration are nearing completion. New
programmes to help offenders make practical changes to
Research is indicating that the quality of delivery has an avoid re-offending, by becoming involved in positive social
impact on the effectiveness of a programme. In order to relationships and activities and achieving a settled lifestyle,
promote quality each programme is supported by intensive will be introduced. At present we are working in partnership
training aimed at developing a high level of skill amongst the with local Learning Skills Councils and voluntary organisations
range of staff involved in delivery. In addition, clear and to deliver basic skills provision to offenders in the community.
New Pathfinders will include an employment project, a A recent study shows that those attending the course had a
prison/probation basic skills project and a hostels project. one-year reconviction rate of 20.4% compared with 34.5%
for those who had not (RDS, Home Office, 2000);
This work with offenders complements their attendance on
offending behaviour programmes. It provides an opportunity
for offenders to practise newly developed skills by applying
ƒ The Drink Impaired Drivers programme was accredited in
2001. In evaluations of the programme, the two-year
them to problems they face - in employment, accommodation reconviction rate for those who completed the programme
or money management. was 14%, compared to 21% sentenced to other disposals
(RDS, Home Office, 2000);
Community Punishment1

Significant improvements can be made in reducing offending

ƒ The Community Sex Offenders Groupwork Programme,
was accredited in 2000. An evaluation found that those
if Community Punishment supervisors use ‘pro-social completing the programme showed a reduction by 7.4% in
modelling’ techniques. This is where supervisors engage with the two-year reconviction rate for sexual offences (3.2%,
offenders by acting as positive role models, rather than compared to 10.6% for a matched control group), a
merely supervising the work being done. Community reduction by 11% for violent offences, and a reduction by
Punishment can be particularly effective in reducing re- 22% for other offences such as theft (Allam, 1999).
offending when offenders themselves think it a worthwhile
experience (McIvor, 1992). As a result of this, the National Drugs programmes
Probation Directorate has been running 12 Pathfinder pilots to Research indicates that structured therapeutic communities2
experiment with a number of techniques including pro-social average a 16% reduction in reconviction rates. A recent
modelling. These are aimed at reducing anti-social attitudes review of US/Canadian drugs programmes produced results
and behaviour and teaching employment skills. The effect is from four schemes which suggested an average 14.6%
to increase offenders’ compliance with the order and reduce reduction in reconviction rates.
reconviction. The Pathfinders have produced promising
results and a new enhanced form of Community Punishment Interim and self-report data from offenders in three Drug
(ECP) will be introduced in 2003. Treatment & Testing Order (DTTO) pilot sites are generally
positive, indicating substantial reductions in both offending
Evaluating Programmes and illegal drug consumption (Turnbull, 2000).
An extensive independent research programme has been
Basic numeracy and literacy programmes
commissioned to evaluate these accredited programmes,
Recent data indicate that teaching reading skills reduces re-
examining the impact on offenders and reconviction rates.
offending by 6% on average, and the best interventions can
produce 14% reductions (Lipton, 1999).
Offenders in Canada who improved their literacy and
Significant evidence is emerging of the effectiveness of this
numeracy had a significantly lower readmission to prison. The
research also found that offenders who completed the course
recognised that personal changes had taken place, for
Offending behaviour programmes
example they were more concerned about other people's
Research shows that properly conducted programmes of
feelings and said they had improved self-control (Porporino
intervention can have a significant effect on reconviction
and Robinson, 1992).
rates. Typically the effect has been around 10-15% reduction
compared to offenders who did not attend structured
New programmes to improve literacy and numeracy are being
introduced from 2002 in partnership with the Prison Service,
Employment Service and the Basic Skills Agency.
ƒ Aggression Replacement Training (ART) is a programme
developed in Wiltshire which aims to tackle the problems of
violent offenders. It was accredited by the Correctional
Services Accreditation Panel in 2001.

Prior to the Criminal Justice & Court Services Act 2000, Community Punishment Orders 2
were called Community Service Orders; Community Rehabilitation Orders were called Therapeutic Communities are designed environments in prisons which provide a structured,
Probation Orders; and Community Punishment & Rehabilitation Orders were called residentially-based programme that enhances the sense of community and uses positive
Combination Orders. peer group pressure to influence attitudes.

Community penalties will be credible options only if they are

enforced rigorously; it is a serious matter when a court order
is broken. Even if a programme is known to work, it cannot
have the required impact unless offenders attend regularly.
It is therefore vital that those who fail to attend without good
reason are returned to Court promptly.

There has been a shift in culture on enforcement. The

National Standards for the Supervision of Offenders in
the Community have been revised; since April 2000
offenders have been returned to court no later than the
second unacceptable failure to comply rather than, as
previously, the third such failure.


Contact your local office of the National Probation Service

(NPS). Some have a Communications or Public Relations
Officer to whom enquiries can be addressed. Alternatively,
you may wish to consult the central What Works Team at the
National Probation Directorate, 1st floor, Horseferry House,
Dean Ryle Street, London SW1P 2AW; tel 020 7217 0687;

Important Information for Sentencers is published by the

National Probation Directorate approximately six times a year
to promote understanding of the options available through the
National Probation Service and other matters of interest to
sentencers. For further copies contact your local Probation
Area Board, call 020 7217 8409, or visit the probation pages
of the Home Office website, where this document and others
which may be useful to sentencers are published:

The first title in this series, Working Together – Probation and

the Courts (August 2002), is also available from NPS head
offices, as is a 15 minute video entitled An Insight into What
Works which can be shown at meetings of sentencers.