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Implementing, managing, and delivering Through the Gate Services for short-term prisoners

Our article 'Through the Gate: The implementation, management and delivery of resettlement service provision for short-term prisoners' (written by Rehabilitating Probation project team members Matthew Millings and Lol Burke with LJMU colleagues Stuart Taylor and Ester Ragonese) draws on research documenting the implementation, oversight, and operation of Through the Gate service provision in one case study prison across an 18-month period.

Published in the Probation Journal and drawing on interview and focus group based research with professionals, male prisoners, and the families of these men, the paper provides a critical examination of the practice implications of administering Through the Gate provision in a resettlement prison at a time of profound change and great uncertainty within the sector. The development of models and outsourcing of responsibility for delivering these services was a key pillar of the wider Transforming Rehabilitation reform programme and this research captures the insights from a range of groups the shifts in practice impacted upon most keenly. 

The case study research design allowed us to sharply focus on what the Transforming Rehabilitation reform programme meant in terms of the changes in organisational structures, the evolution of occupational culture(s), and on the impact on multi-agency partnership working practice. In ways that the Ministry of Justice's 'Strengthening Probation, Building Confidence' consultation (Ministry of Justice, 2018) would later recognise nationally, our local case study captured the challenges Through the Gate provision experienced as a result of funding pressures faced by Community Rehabilitation Company providers in trying to deliver an enhanced level of support from custody into the community. But our research findings suggested the systemic and long-standing problems we encountered went further and found that mandating an extra 40,000 to 50,000 people into statutory post-sentence supervision - on the promise that their resettlement needs will be met without providing either the resources or the organisational means to achieve this - not only placed extra pressure on an already overwrought system but was only ever likely to enhance feelings of resentment and disconnection among those delivering services and those requiring them.

We conclude that increased strain placed on those delivering and accessing services compromised the scope to reconceptualise and narrate a shared and operationally robust understanding of resettlement that the ambitions of Transforming Rehabilitation had offered. In ways that connect with our interest in the Rehabilitating Probation project with harmonising a mixed-economy of probation services providers our paper highlighted the need for practitioners to identify with a clearer shared rehabilitative working ethos where anxieties around the motivations and operational agendas of partners are more aligned (and respected).