Criticisms in Feltham youth crime report 'removed'

Inside Feltham Young Offenders' Institution
Image caption The Daedalus project cost nearly £3m of public money

Criticisms in a draft report of London Mayor Boris Johnson's scheme to cut youth reoffending were removed before it went public, the BBC has learned.

The project involved selecting 220 inmates to serve their sentences in a separate wing of Feltham Young Offenders' Institution to help them back into jobs or education.

City Hall denied there had been a 'cover up' or criticisms removed.

Critics say the changes are "disappointing".

The original draft report into the Daedalus scheme, commissioned by the Greater London Authority (GLA), claimed the mayor's project suffered because City Hall adopted a "payment-by-results" approach which denied it sufficient money upfront. This was removed from the final public report.

Payment-by-results is one of the coalition government's favoured approaches to tackling crime.

The selected inmates for the scheme were given extra support in the Heron unit and were assigned "resettlement brokers" - employed by the charity Rathbone - to help them after being released.

It absorbed nearly £3m of public money, half from the European Social Fund and half from the mayor's London Development Agency (LDA) - which insisted on the payment-by-results model.

The independent evaluation of the scheme was carried out by leading market research company Ipsos MORI and published in March.

Strong criticisms

It reported that Rathbone had been paid according to its success in meeting a range of targets including the number of offenders helped into education, training or employment (ETE).

Only one in six inmates remained in ETE for six months - a key target.

Image caption The official rate of reoffending among the 220 inmates who took part will be released this summer

The report authors found Rathbone was not paid in advance and had to spend too much time on targets and the claims process for payment.

The original draft report said: "It was hard for them to invest the necessary funds upfront for some of the innovation.

"Indeed, a number of stakeholders commented on the fact that Rathbone is restricted to some extent by the fact that they are not paid upfront; it was argued that receiving a percentage of their payments in advance of meeting targets may make more sense."

The report authors were told payment-by-results models could exclude charitable organisations from getting involved in future projects, a potentially damaging finding omitted from the final report.

Also removed were "concerns whether the resettlement broker approach would be cost-effective" outside London and how there were too few resettlement brokers to cover the whole of London.

Difficulties arose because the project had to be extended when not enough suitable young offenders could be found from the original six "Diamond" boroughs - Newham, Lambeth, Southwark, Croydon, Lewisham and Hackney.

Omitted was a section of the original draft which said: "It was thought by both parents and young people themselves that Resettlement Brokers may be stretched, and that consequently they did not spend as much time with the young person as was sometimes desired."

'PR exercise'

The published report said: "All the young people interviewed were positive about the relationship they had with their Resettlement Brokers.

"However, it was felt that the move to a pan-London approach had impacted on the time Resettlement Brokers had been able to spend with young people and the numbers that could be seen within a given day due to travel time."

Few inmates who were interviewed felt they had been prepared for the jobs market, also not reported in the published version.

In a single paragraph examining the funding process, the final published report mentions "'frustrations'" with the payment-by-results model.

It said: "Resettlement brokers said they would at times feel conflicted in their working practice; there was an uncertainty as to whether their key concern at any one time should be meeting targets, or meeting the needs of young people."

The Howard League for Penal Reform said the scheme's failures had been kept from the public.

Director of campaigns Andrew Neilson said: "It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that a PR exercise has watered down the original findings of the evaluation, as the unpublished draft differs tellingly from the published version in several places.

Image caption Boris Johnson's Daedalus project at Feltham was launched in 2009

"In particular, the Heron unit was briefly a poster boy for the movement towards payment-by-results in criminal justice. It is intriguing then to see that the payment-by-results elements of the project were heavily played down in the published evaluation.

"It is disappointing to see a supposedly independent academic evaluation distorted in this way. When projects piloting new approaches and commanding substantial sums of public money are launched it is crucial that we are able to learn from both their successes and their failures."

A spokesman for Ipsos MORI said: "It was agreed with all stakeholders, who include the Ministry of Justice, the Youth Justice Board and three local authorities, that within the scope of this preliminary findings report the evidence was not currently strong enough to discuss the Payment by Results model in detail prior to further analysis of the data gathered and a cost analysis exercise.

"The draft referred to included viewpoints from a small number of stakeholders, which without being set in the context of the views of all those involved in the programme and also the data on the delivery of Daedalus, could be misleading."

City Hall denied there had been a "cover up" and removal of criticisms but declined to say what changes had been suggested by officials.

A spokesman said: "It is standard practice for all reports to naturally go through various drafts before being published and the Mayor's Office, the Ministry of Justice, Youth Justice Board, third sector and boroughs have amended inaccuracies and fed back suggestions to ensure findings are accurately reflected and evidence based."

The official rate of reoffending among the 220 inmates who benefited from the project will not be known until the summer.

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