Manchester Metropolitan University’s impact on the policy and practice of commissioning offender rehabilitation.

Submitting Institution

Manchester Metropolitan University

Unit of Assessment

Social Work and Social Policy

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Criminology, Policy and Administration

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Summary of the impact

MMU's Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU) has developed a distinct model for commissioning more personalised services for the resettlement of offenders. The model is being adopted by and influencing the approach taken by a range of policy-makers and senior practitioners involved in commissioning offender resettlement services or those bidding to deliver such services in the new `Transforming Rehabilitation' framework that has been introduced by the current government. The approach has had particular impact in the development of the Transforming Justice model developed in Greater Manchester where the team is based.

Underpinning research

In 2007 Professor Chris Fox (MMU:2007 - present, evaluator with a background in criminal justice policy) and Dr. Kevin Albertson (MMU: 1992 - present, economist) started to study England and Wales criminal justice commissioning practice through a series of commissioned evaluations [7 - 11].

Through these evaluations they recognised that the new, more personalised services being developed needed a clearer theoretical framework [1] and argued that this might be justice reinvestment. They studied the development of justice reinvestment in the US and early attempts to implement it in the UK, particularly in Greater Manchester, where as well as undertaking research they advised on the Transforming Justice agenda. The result of this research was a series of articles [5 and 6] and latterly a book [2].

In parallel Fox and Albertson argued for the better integration of practice in offender resettlement with new models of commissioning. When the Coalition government introduced its `Rehabilitation Revolution' Fox and Albertson undertook the first substantial academic analysis of Payment by Results, Social Impact Bonds [3 and 4], based in part on a further set of commissioned consultancy and evaluation projects [12 and 13] that have provided them with valuable insights into Payment by Results from both the commissioner and provider perspectives.

The MMU approach is inter-disciplinary and multi-method and grounded in the application of economic theory and methods to an analysis of criminal justice. The model of commissioning offender resettlement developed has 3 dimensions:

  • At the centre of the model (micro) is the relationship between individual offenders and criminal justice professionals (and sometimes volunteers) who work with them. We have not developed new resettlement approaches, rather we have shown how a number of existing personalised approaches including desistance-based approaches such as the Good Lives Model can be integrated into a holistic approach to offender resettlement.
  • The next level (meso) considers the organisational context and commissioning arrangements that are best able to deliver this model of offender management. This recognises the importance of a mixed economy of provision, local commissioning and social innovation in delivering more personalised approaches.
  • The outer circle (macro) sets out an overarching theory of offender rehabilitation that draws on the concepts of Justice Reinvestment to show how a Good Lives Model of offender rehabilitation and a complementary set of commissioning practices can be combined to deliver a form of Justice Reinvestment consistent with original aspirations Justice Reinvestment advocates who saw it as a means of delivering a wider social justice agenda.

References to the research

[1] *Fox, A., Fox, C. and Marsh C. (2013) `Could personalisation reduce re-offending?' The Journal of Social Policy (DOI: 10.1017/S0047279413000512)


[2] Fox, C., Albertson, K. and Wong, K. (2013) Justice Reinvestment: Can the Criminal Justice System Deliver More for Less? London: Routledge (ISBN: 978-0-415-50034-0)

[3] *Fox, C. and Albertson, K. (2012) `Is `Payment by Results' the most efficient way to address the challenges faced by the criminal justice sector?' The Probation Journal Vol.59(4) pp.355-373 (DOI: 10.1177/0264550512458473)


[4] *Fox, C. and Albertson, K. (2011) `Payment by results and social impact bonds in the criminal justice sector: new challenges for the concept of evidence-based policy?' Criminology and Criminal Justice, Vol.11(5) pp.395-413 (DOI: 10.1177/1748895811415580)


[5] *Fox, C., Albertson, K. and Warburton, F. (2011) `Justice Reinvestment: can it deliver more for less?' Howard Journal of Criminal Justice Vol. 50(2) pp. 119-136 (DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2311.2010.00654.x)


[6] *Fox, C. and Albertson, K. (2010) `Could economics solve the prison crisis?' The Probation Journal, Vol. 57(3) pp.263-280 (DOI: 10.1177/0264550510379883)


Contract research projects (with impact embedded from the outset) include:

7. Evaluation of Choose Change, a resettlement project for short-term offenders at HMP Manchester commissioned by the Greater Manchester Probation Trust (2008 - 11)

8. The national evaluation of Intensive Alternatives to Custody — a project led by Sheffield Hallam University and commissioned by the Ministry of Justice (2009-11).

9. Evaluation of Inside Out at HMP Preston, which is a `through-the-gate' resettlement project for prisoners serving 12 months or less involving a personalisation element. Funded by Lancashire Criminal Justice Board and MMU (2011-13)

10. Evaluation of a mentoring programme funded by London Probation Trust. The programme offers peer mentoring to male offenders aged 18 - 25 and mentoring to women offenders. There is a personalised element and MMU influenced the overall design of the project. (2013-14).

11. Evaluation of `My Square Mile' a prisoner resettlement project at HMP Forest Bank. This includes a Justice Reinvestment element. Commissioned by Khulisa (2011 - 14). Value of project £18,000

12. Supporting Wigan Drug Action Team to develop a Payment by Results approach to commissioning drug treatment services. Commissioned by Wigan Drug Action Team (2011 - 12). Value of overall project £15,000

13. Programme funded by the London Criminal Justice Partnership (2011 - 13) (Value of overall project £120,000 (value to MMU £21,350).

For all of these projects client reports are available on request.

* Included in the REF submission

Details of the impact

The immediate impact of this work is on the behaviours and policies of commissioners and providers of criminal justice services.

At a national level Fox and Albertson have engaged in a range of dissemination activities. Their membership of the Home Office Economic Research Advisory Group (2011 - present) and Chris Fox's membership of the Ministry of Justice Evaluation Advisory Group (2012 - present) have provided opportunities to influence national policy. Fox and Albertson met with the civil servant at the Ministry of Justice leading their Payment by Results policy and subsequently members of the Payment by Results policy-team. Fox was invited to a roundtable discussion with the Policing Minister to discuss how the new Policing and Crime Commissioners could develop policy with an offender dimension. Fox presented their model at two seminars on `Personalisation in the Criminal Justice System' hosted by the Ministry of Justice Academy for Commissioning in London (November 2012) and Manchester (April 2012). The membership of the Academy is senior managers from within the criminal justice system. A total of 110 delegates attended the two events. Approximately 50% were from the Ministry of Justice, the National Offender Management Service, Her Majesty's Prison Service and Probation Trusts and approximately a third were from the voluntary and private sectors. Typical comments in the delegate evaluation forms were "Chris Fox gave an interesting challenge to think about the way we operate differently", "Challenged me to think differently".

The impact of this dissemination activity is summed up by a senior staff in the criminal justice system:
"Professor Fox . . . has worked with me to develop thinking about personalisation in the criminal justice system, and consider what learning can be applied from health and social care experience. This has led to publication of a number of articles, and he has spoken at seminars for criminal justice professionals, policy makers and managers to share research and provide practical examples for development. Some of this thinking is reflected in the recent Ministry of Justice announcement on Transforming Rehabilitation." (Former Director of Offender Management, NOMS) [A]

"[Chris Fox's] work has become increasingly prominent within prisons over the last two years. By applying a humane approach to economics, with an appreciation of the humane and social context of public policy, he makes a particularly significant contribution.. . [Through his work on Justice Reinvestment] Professor Fox has helped to focus on creating a more compelling case for this approach and helping to clarify what it is and how it might have a positive impact." (Senior Prison Governor) [B]

We have also worked with specific organisations including running seminars about our approach for the senior management teams of two Probation Trusts. Our work has had a particular impact in Greater Manchester where we work closely with the Transforming Justice team. Fox was a member of the Greater Manchester Transforming Justice Steering Group (2010 - 11) and the Greater Manchester Reducing Re-Offending Group (2010 - 2012).

MMU's research has supported a transformation agenda that has resulted in a fundamental change in the way criminal justice services are organised and commissioned:
"MMU has supported the programme of transformation work within Greater Manchester by providing advice, guidance and academic rigour to local proposals. . . . This has helped to build local capacity and capability . . . The provision of advice in relation to the potential for a Justice Reinvestment approach . . . has also supported Greater Manchester to move to a broader model of "Transforming Justice"." (Senior Manager from Greater Manchester Public Service Reform Team) [C]

Our research has provided local policy-makers and commissioners with stimulating innovations grounded in academic theory:
"Professor Fox worked with myself as Director of Offender Management for NOMS, (2009 - 2011) and other colleagues from the criminal justice sector and local authorities to help us explore the application of a Justice Reinvestment approach to the Greater Manchester area. He provided research information about how such models have worked elsewhere, and stimulated ideas about innovative practice. He attended multi-agency meetings and met with colleagues on a one to one basis." (Former Director of Offender Management, NOMS) [A]

The MMU research is supporting organisational change within criminal justice agencies in Greater Manchester:
"[T]he work [PERU] have done on Personalisation /Justice Reinvestment is being noticed by Greater Manchester Probation Trust and chimes with the learning we have gained from our own personalisation practice pilot in Tameside. My attendance at two of your seminars . . . has provided me with the academic underpinning needed to gain attention and land ideas in my own organisation and in the GM public service reform team." (Assistant Chief Executive Greater Manchester Probation Trust) [D]

Our impact extends to the private sector. Since 2012 Chris Fox has been an advisor to a FTSE 250 company working in the justice sector. The Managing Director of the Justice Division said [E]:
"Professor Fox has worked with us for 18 months to support our understanding and development of an evidence based approach to developing the government's Payment by Results policy as it relates to offending. In addition, he has provided independent evaluation and advice which has assisted us in the preparation of submissions to the Ministry of Justice supporting our approach to reducing re-offending. Professor Fox's work on Justice re-investment has been widely shared and appreciated by the justice community, including policy makers and providers such as Interserve. It is supporting a new approach to solutions for better criminal justice outcomes." (Managing Director)

Sources to corroborate the impact

Testimonials available on file from:

[A] Former Director of Offender Management, NOMS evidence to support national impact of the research on criminal justice policy as well as its specific impact in Greater Manchester

[B] Senior Prison Governor, Her Majesty's Prison Service evidence to support national impact of the research in prisons

[C] Partner, Public Service Transformation Network evidence to support the impact of the research on the Greater Manchester Transforming Justice approach

[D] Assistant Chief Executive, Greater Manchester Probation Trust evidence to support the impact of the research on the Greater Manchester Transforming Justice approach and specifically organisational change within the Probation Trust

[E] Managing Director Justice, Interserve evidence to support the impact of the research on a private sector company developing its commercial proposition to take into the new market for criminal justice services