The MOJ’s Justice Data Lab could prove to be a useful tool for charities but statistics don’t tell the full story

 

This month the Ministry of Justice, in collaboration with NPC, commenced a one year trial of its Justice Data Lab. The service will be free for charities to use for one year and will not only give organisations access to reoffending data but will match the data with national reoffending rates and compare the results to a control group of similar individuals.

It is hoped that this will help charities to better understand (and evidence) their own impact and the implication is of course that it will help them to win payment by results contracts.

So far so good, but I do worry for all the charities whose client group or activities can not be analysed in this way. The analysis is based on some impressive statistical research and relies on what data is currently available. Understandably it can not at the moment include:

  • Services that work with less than 60 service users per year
  • Services working with clients released after 2010
  • Clients for whom a matched control group can not be found
  • Services where there isn’t a clearly defined start and end date for the intervention

A little more confusing is the exclusion of the following groups, which make up the majority of Re-Unite clients:

  • Offenders who have mental health issues
  • Services or interventions that are targeted at persons with specific needs, including those relating to drugs or alcohol. (More details are available in the MOJ User Journey Document)

Don’t get me wrong, it is good that the MOJ is making this service available, but I do wonder whether all those services which do not fit the statistical methodology will be assigned to the scrap heap in the scramble for payment by results contracts?

The Justice Data Lab will exclude: all those small, intensive intervention services; all those projects that allow service users to drop in and out as they need help along their rehabilitation journey; and all those projects working with groups whose circumstances are not recorded as standard (for example, mothers in the criminal justice system).

I hope that in issuing payment by results contracts, Probation Trusts and others are aware that statistics don’t always tell the whole story.