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Inefficient IT hampering UK government plans to reduce re-offending, says NAO

National Audit Office highlights problems such as re-keying of data and a lack of integration

Inefficient IT systems are hampering the government’s plans to reduce reoffending rates among convicted criminals, according to the findings of a National Audit Office (NAO) report.

The NAO reported that the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) reorganisation of the way probation services are managed – known as Transforming Rehabilitation – had made good progress, but long-standing weaknesses with IT remain a problem.

A lack of integration between systems means staff often have to re-enter data into different applications, and probation workers say they lose several hours of working time every week in using their main case management system.

“The various IT systems used in probation casework create severe inefficiencies. New tools used by the National Probation Service (NPS) for assessing and allocating offenders are cumbersome and require repeated data re-entry,” said the NAO report.

“Staff also attributed several hours per person per week of lost working time to nDelius, the main probation case management system adopted before the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. The NPS expects to continue using these systems for the foreseeable future,” said the report.

As part of the MOJ’s reforms, 21 new community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) were established to supervise low-risk offenders on probation.

The National Offender Management Service (Noms) – the MOJ agency responsible for prisons and probation – was meant to develop an interface for case management data sharing with CRCs by June 2015, but this was delayed “due to other priorities and increased scope”.

As a result, CRCs face additional costs, which may have to be paid by the MOJ. The MOJ said the interface had now been developed and was awaiting testing with CRCs.

Noms had struggled with the development of new IT systems in the past. The £234m C-Nomis system was scrapped in 2009 after running two years late and at double the original cost.

A report in 2011 by MPs found inadequate IT systems at the Probation Service contributed to staff spending three-quarters of their time on administrative tasks rather than dealing with offenders.

But by 2013, Noms had replaced 43 separate case management systems with the single nDelius system (highlighted in the latest NAO report as a cause of inefficiencies).

“Some [staff] considered nDelius had been unfit for purpose as a case management tool even before it was laden with additional performance management and contract management functions during the reforms. NPS is making minor changes to the system on an ongoing basis,” said the NAO report.

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