Police are spending too much time doing work formally carried out by probation and other public services, according to a report carried out by probation and police watchdogs.
Police officers do not receive any formal training in this work, which includes escorting convicted offenders to mental health and drug and alcohol abuse appointments and helping them to complete applications for benefits.
The integrated offender management scheme was initially intended to provide linked-up policing, probation, mental health and social welfare services to manage habitual offenders in an attempt to address the problem of reoffending. It was widened significantly in 2015 to potentially include all types of offenders, but focuses particularly on those believed to be likely to commit acts of violence or self-harm.
However, it has since ‘lost its way’ according to the report by HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services. ‘The reality is roughly 80% of police officers’ time is spent dealing with non-crime related incidents, and budget cuts have created pressures not only across policing, but across all public services,’ the Police Federation chair John Apter told the Daily Telegraph (here). The situation has arisen in part because services such as those intended to help with drug or alcohol misuse are so under-resourced that they are not able to provide access to those who desperately need them.
According to the report, only 44% of those enrolled in the Integrated Offender Management scheme received sufficient drug misuse services to address their risk of reoffending, with alcohol misuse following closely behind at 46%.
Though the scheme was initially intended to direct drug and alcohol misuse services to those who presented the highest risk to themselves and others, individuals enrolled in IOM are no longer seen as a number one priority.
According to the report, the scheme has instead led to a disintegration of services and an increased workload on probation staff due to a lack of centralised national oversight and a funding deficit across the board.
Instead of fostering cooperation among police, probation, and other services, these factors have instead resulted in police officers having to fill the gaps left by an under-resourced and over-worked probation service instead of using their time to investigate and prevent crime.
The increased breadth of the programme, as well as ‘limited commitment to developing evaluation and establishing a performance framework at a national level’ has led to such a lack of information about its outcomes that no adequate data exists on whether it is broadly effective at all in preventing and reducing reoffending or promoting successful rehabilitation.
The report stresses that a clearer definition of the programme’s operating model is required, as well as a comprehensive Ministry of Justice review of its costs and benefits. It also recommends that officers need to be trained if they are to be expected to carry out this work, especially when dealing with children and vulnerable adults.