The delivery of a ‘rehabilitation revolution’ is at the centre of the Coalition government’s criminal justice policy. As voiced by Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling recently, 'we can deliver better rehabilitation of offenders’.
The overall objective is to provide more effective resettlement support for offenders to tackle high levels of reoffending amongst the adult and youth offending population. In particular, the consistency in support for those serving custodial sentences released into the community has become a major focus, with the aim of improving the life chances of offenders through education or employment and thereby limiting possible reoffending.
Supporting this agenda, the London Youth Reducing Reoffending Programme, or Daedalus, as it was commonly referred to, sought to support young people in custody to break the cycle of youth re-offending and improve their chances of successful resettlement back in their community. The programme was piloted on the Heron Unit at Young Offender Institution Feltham and Ipsos MORI was commissioned to undertake a challenging, multi-method impact evaluation in assessing the success and value for money offered by the Programme.
Underpinned by the much talked about payment by results model and unlike other resettlement initiatives that have gone before, the programme provided a Resettlement Broker to every young person referred to the Heron Unit.
Efforts around rehabilitation began as soon as a young person started on the unit. Their assigned Resettlement Brokers worked with prison staff to provide them with help to address the causes of the young person’s criminal behaviour and to help them get back into education, training or employment on release. The role was in essence twofold: help inside but also in the community, something often recognised by the young people benefiting from the service.
“I think [Resettlement Brokers] are the highlight of Heron …It would be stupid to have a wing where they teach you so much stuff inside and as soon as you go outside you’re by yourself again…’cos you’ve got your Resettlement Broker, it’s like you come out and all those skills you learnt in Heron and your Resettlement Broker then helps you put them to good use.”
Getting young people back into education, training or employment is widely accepted as a key way of preventing further offending. However, the often chaotic backgrounds and range of needs evident in a young offender’s live can prevent successful reintegration. Throughout our evaluation of the project, the dedication of all those involved in the delivery of Daedalus was evident, seeing many young people successfully go back into college or secure apprenticeships and employment.
For those that had not got to this stage, there were still evident improvements in their motivation to change their behaviour and look for positive ways of improving their life chances, whether it was seeking appropriate support for substance misuse problems or working hard to improve relationships with families.
It is worth mentioning that tackling crime through resettlement initiatives, such as Daedalus, are supported by the general public, who are often described as being overly punitive in their attitudes towards punishing crime. There is general agreement that rehabilitation is an effective way of preventing future offending. Interestingly both the public and offenders regularly mention ‘help finding work’ as vital to ceasing patterns of reoffending, followed closely by involvement in education courses. The public are in principle at least, supportive of initiatives such as Daedalus, and of the need to ensure good practice is maintained.
So where do the findings of the Daedalus evaluation take us?
The news is good. The findings Ipsos MORI presents in the final report should not gather dust on a shelf, as the model of work delivered was successful and warrants continuation and replication elsewhere. The provision of enhanced units across YOIs, strong partnership working between relevant agencies in both custody and into the community and the support from individuals such as Resettlement Brokers offer a model for effectively rehabilitating young offenders. Indicative evidence of the Programme offering value for money further cement the role a programme such as Daedalus can have in the fight against youth crime.
 Why Daedalus? Daedalus was a skilful architect and craftsman who built the labyrinth for the Ancient Greek King Minos that was used to imprison the mythical Minotaur. As builder of the labyrinth, only Daedalus knew the route out.