Policy paper

2010 to 2015 government policy: reoffending and rehabilitation

Updated 8 May 2015

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

This is a copy of a document that stated a policy of the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. The previous URL of this page was https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/reducing-reoffending-and-improving-rehabilitation. Current policies can be found at the GOV.UK policies list.


Around half of all crime is committed by people who have already been through the criminal justice system. The cost to the taxpayer of reoffending is estimated to be £9.5 to £13 billion per year.

Reoffending has been too high for too long, despite significant government spending on offender management in the last decade. There has been little change in reconviction rates and almost half of those released from prison go on to reoffend within 12 months.

We need to reduce reoffending to reduce both the number of victims and the costs to the taxpayer. To achieve this, we need a tough but intelligent criminal justice system that punishes people properly when they break the law, but also supports them so they don’t commit crime in the future.


We will achieve this by:

  • using a ‘payment by results’ approach to develop and implement effective ways of rehabilitating offenders and rewarding providers that devise and deliver the most effective rehabilitation programmes

  • providing effective community-based punishments, such as the wider use of electronic tagging

  • providing more meaningful and productive work and training for prisoners while in prison

  • preventing drug abuse inside prisons and providing drugs counselling after release, or when serving a community sentence

  • engaging drug misusing offenders as early as possible in their contact with the criminal justice system, from drug testing on arrest through to post-release care

  • using integrated offender management to better manage offenders by getting partner agencies to work together

  • supporting offenders to resettle in their communities, to become more employable and find work

  • on behalf of victims, establishing a clearer basis for restorative justice

We’ll also keep our communities safe by extending the offences that the police can prosecute and speeding up justice

The Positive Futures programme, which helped keep young people away from crime, is now being managed at a local level.


Punishment is an essential part of the justice system, but on its own it does not stop people reoffending. Almost half of all adults leaving prison are reconvicted within a year.

For those serving short sentences, the figure is even higher. The same criminals repeatedly pass through the courts, prison and community sentences, creating new victims of crime and extra costs to the taxpayer.

Who we’ve consulted

In December 2010, we published ‘Breaking the cycle’, a green paper which included plans for payment by results pilots and a commitment to apply these principles to all providers by 2015.

We also ran a consultation ‘Punishment and Reform: effective probation services’ in March 2012. At the same time, we ran the consultation ‘Punishment and Reform: effective community sentences’.

We published a summary of responses to effective probation services consultation on 9 January 2013.

We published a consultation document ‘Transforming rehabilitation - a revolution in the way we manage offenders on 9 January 2013. The document explained our proposals to reform offender services in the community to reduce re-offending. The consultation closed on 22 February 2013.

We published the consultation response Transforming rehabilitation: a strategy for reform in May 2013.

Bills and legislation

The Offender Rehabilitation Act contains a number of measures about the release (and supervision after release) of offenders, the period for extended sentence prisoners, and community orders.

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (2010-12) contains a number of measures to protect the public and reduce reoffending.

The Crime and Courts Act which received Royal Assent on 25 April 2013, includes new measures to make community sentences more effective.

Appendix 1: payment by results

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Payment by results involves judging how effective projects are in stopping reoffending, and giving funding to what we know works.

Drug and alcohol recovery pilots

In the drug strategy 2010 we committed to trialling payment by results for drug and alcohol recovery services.

8 local areas have worked with us to design the 3 national-level outcomes that providers will be paid to achieve. These are:

  • reducing people’s dependence on drugs
  • reduced reoffending
  • health and wellbeing

The Home Office has developed an offending outcome for the pilots, which allows providers to be assessed according to the offending of all locally engaged individuals.

The pilots encourage joint working between treatment providers and criminal justice agencies. They concentrate on prolific drug-misusing offenders who do the most harm.

We are helping local commissioners to adopt the principles of payment by results for drug and alcohol recovery services in their area.

We have published a set of lessons learnt from the drug and alcohol recovery pilots. These lessons look at the development of the pilots and the outcomes. To accompany these we have run a series of workshops to look at the more technical side of payment by results.

We will release offending data to every drug and alcohol recovery partnership and police and crime commissioner in England. The data will show local commissioners how many offences have been saved in their area. This information will enable commissioners to pay their providers based on a reduced level of offending.

Appendix 2: managing drug misusing offenders

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

As part of their local integrated offender management work, many local areas in England and Wales provide interventions designed to identify and work with drug-misusing offenders as early as possible in their initial contact with the criminal justice system.

Drug workers and police help drug-using offenders by challenging their criminal behaviour and giving access to help with life skills, education and training, employment, drug treatment and housing.

These early interventions can include:

  • drug testing upon arrest for opiate/cocaine users (leading to a drug assessment, which can be required under legislation)

  • intelligence sharing between drug workers and police

  • drug workers undertaking assessments in custody suites

  • immediate access to drug treatment, recovery and other support services

The teams share information with local partners who, collectively, take further legal action where drug users don’t want to engage.

In the past the Home Office has provided funding for these approaches through the drug interventions programme. The programme and the central funding ceased in April 2013, when local authorities and police and crime commissioners became responsible for deciding whether to continue funding interventions in their own area.

Drug testing on arrest

Drug testing is a useful way of identifying drug-misusing adult offenders. A positive test for one of the specified Class A drugs - heroin, crack or cocaine - can help the offender get access to treatment and other support.

Following a positive test, the police can require the individual to attend up to 2 assessments with a qualified drug worker (‘required assessment’), which can lead to structured drug treatment and other recovery support. There are legal sanctions for individuals who fail to attend or remain at these assessments.

In areas operating drug testing on arrest, around two-thirds of those entering treatment are identified following the initial drug test.

Courts have the option of adding restrictions on any bail granted to those who test positive. The result can also influence any sentencing options (such as giving a drug referral order).

In April 2011 the Home Office extended the authorisation for testing to take place throughout England and Wales, giving police forces more flexibility to carry out drug tests when people are arrested.

We have also dropped central targets requiring forces to drug test a minimum of detainees arrested for selected offences (‘trigger offences’). Police forces can now target more effectively according to local priorities.

We have produced a good practice guide on introducing locally funded drug testing on arrest.

Appendix 3: police-led prosecutions

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

We are giving the police more discretion to prosecute some high volume offences, which cause serious harm to communities, quickly and efficiently through the criminal justice system.

The Crown Prosecution Service is responsible for prosecuting crimes, while the police have the power to prosecute some uncontested, low-level traffic offences (like speeding, driving without insurance, or failing to produce a driving licence).

Specified proceedings

The offences which the police can prosecute are set out in the Specified Proceedings Order 1999. Changes to this order were laid in Parliament on 26 June 2012.

The changes came into force on 3 September 2012. They allow the police to prosecute:

  • in proof in absence cases (where the defendant does not attend court and has not objected to the evidence presented)
  • where exceptional hardship representations are made

If a defendant pleads not guilty then the case will continue to be handled by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Before the recent changes approximately a third of specified proceedings cases had to be de-specified , leading to delays while files were transferred, backlogs in the courts due to adjournments, and unnecessary burdens for the police and CPS.

Extending offences

In June 2014 an amendment to the Specified Proceedings Order 1999 came into force to extend police-led prosecutions to cover shop theft of goods worth £200 or less. Guidance is available for the police, which sets out how the legislation should be implemented, and what factors should be taken into account when making decisions on how to proceed with individual cases.

Read the full list of offences.

Making police-led prosecutions work

9 police forces have worked together to introduce specific approach to police-led prosecutions. The approach includes:

  • centralised police case management
  • postal charging and requisitioning for such cases rather than having to seek a summons from the magistrates’ court
  • clearer communications to increase defendants’ understanding of the process and reduce unnecessary attendance at court to plead guilty
  • dedicated courts/court sittings
  • police presentation officers presenting cases in court

Appendix 4: transforming rehabilitation

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Transforming rehabilitation is a reform programme that’s changing the way offenders are managed in the community. The programme aims to bring down reoffending rates while continuing to protect the public.

Our reforms will:

  • open up the market to a diverse range of rehabilitation providers from the private, voluntary and social sectors (including potential mutuals) through 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs)
  • incentivise innovation, paying providers by results for delivering reductions in reoffending
  • extend statutory rehabilitation to 45,000 short sentenced offenders released from prison every year, who have the highest reoffending rates and yet currently receive no supervision after release
  • reorganise our prisons to resettle offenders ‘through the gate’, with continuous support from custody to community. This will mean the majority of prisoners will be moved to a resettlement prison close to their community at least 3 months before release
  • create a new public sector National Probation Service (NPS), to manage high risk offenders

The NPS and CRCs will work with each other and their partners to reduce reoffending. The NPS and CRCs will also work with a wide range of partners to deliver services, reduce reoffending and protect the public. The statutory partnerships and responsibilities paper outlines the duties of the NPS and CRCs in relation to partnership working.

Statutory partnerships and responsibilities


The Secretary of State for Justice confirmed on 18 December 2014 that he will be signing contracts with the new owners for the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). This announcement marks another significant step towards completing the government’s probation reforms.

Successful bidders

Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014 commencement

The remaining uncommenced provisions of the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014 (ORA) came into force on 1 February 2015. This marks another significant step in implementing the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms which will reduce the stubbornly high rate of reoffending which has been far too high for far too long.

At the heart of the reforms is the extension of supervision to an extra 45,000 offenders a year who are released from short prison sentences of less than 12 months in custody. Most of this group currently receive no statutory supervision after completing a custodial sentence.

These offenders have the highest reoffending rates of any group. Almost 60% of adult offenders released from short prison sentences in the year to March 2013 went on to reoffend within the next 12 months: a total of 16,719 re-offenders committing 85,047 further offences. The National Audit Office has estimated that the total cost to the economy of crime committed by recent ex-prisoners was between £9.5 billion and £13 billion. Of this, the cost of crime committed by offenders released from short prison sentences accounted for around £7 billion and £10 billion a year.

The changes the ORA makes mean that any offender whose offence was committed on or after 1 February, and who is sentenced to a custodial term of more than 1 day, will in the future receive at least 12 months of supervision after release. As a result, from 1 February, there will be a gradual build up of eligible offenders being supervised.

The ORA also makes a number of changes to the sentencing and release framework set out in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, including expanded drug testing powers for offenders released from custody and the creation of a new rehabilitation activity requirement that can be imposed on offenders serving sentences in the community.

On 1 February 2015, along with the provisions of the ORA coming in to force, new providers also took ownership of, and began running, the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC) which manage low and medium risk offenders.

Community Rehabilitation Companies

The 21 CRCs are responsible for:

  • delivering a resettlement service for all offenders released from custody (engaging with many of the offenders they will manage before release)
  • managing the majority of offenders in the community (most low to medium risk offenders), which includes identifying any changes in risk, and referring the case to the NPS if risk may have escalated to high
  • designing and delivering an innovative new service to rehabilitate offenders and help them turn their lives around
  • delivering a range of specific interventions and services for offenders managed by either CRCs or the NPS, including community payback and most accredited programmes
  • managing senior attendance centres

We’ve published draft contract documentation for the CRCs.

Progress on test gate 4 actions and test gate 5 report

As part of the phased roll out of these reforms, the programme team completed a number of test gates to provide assurance on the operational readiness of probation organisations at key stages of the reforms.

We’ve concluded test gate 5 and published the results of the report. The document also contains key findings from test gate 4 and a summary of actions we’ve taken since then to ensure we remain on track for service transition.

Progress on test gate 4 actions and test gate 5 report

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