Authors: Ellie Covell, Head of Strategy (Performance) | Cassia Rowland, Senior Analyst
Wednesday 20 April
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Crest has published its evaluation of CASSPLUS, a service which provides free support and advice to defendants and others in four magistrates courts in Devon and Cornwall to increase social inclusion and cut reoffending. The evaluation was funded by the Centre for Justice Innovation via the Lloyds Foundation.
Our research found that CASSPLUS is helping people find their way around the criminal justice system and that the service provides people with holistic support tailored to their needs - either directly or by referring them to other organisations.
People involved with CASSPLUS said their needs were being addressed more effectively. The graph below shows the number and proportion of clients – with a need identified at first assessment – whose need had improved, stayed the same or worsened.
Those who used CASSPLUS told us it was invaluable at keeping them in contact with other critical services, helped them handle court proceedings and provided emotional support to process what had happened.
“When I found CASSPLUS a bit of light shone on me…just knowing they’re there I feel a lot better mentally. They helped me…to be more confident in myself…It gave me a more positive outlook.”
However, our research also found that there are evidence gaps. For example, we can't say if CASSPLUS cut reoffending or led people to comply with their sentences. We have made a number of recommendations for further work to establish the impact in these areas.
We found that CASSPLUS provides value for money. We estimate that for each £1 CASSPLUS spends there is a public value of at least £1.87, though this is likely to be a conservative estimate. As data collection practices mature, CASSPLUS will be able to repeat this analysis to gain further evidence of both fiscal and public value benefits.
Critical success factors
We developed six critical success factors for other areas that may be thinking about providing a similar service.
Expert staff and volunteers: CASSPLUS is run by a small team of staff and a larger team of volunteers. The use of volunteers is essential for reaching as many people as possible. For this approach to work, staff must have very good knowledge of local organisations and issues.
Generalist: CASSPLUS supports defendants and their families with any problems they have. The service must be able to address multiple needs, act as a central repository of local information and direct people to where they can get specialist advice and help. Being generalist attracts people to CASSPLUS and enables the service to reach more people.
Responsive: The service must be able to respond to people and provide advice rapidly. People should be able to make appointments - but a ‘drop-in’ option is also vital.
Independent, non-statutory status: The service must be independent from the criminal justice system and engagement should be voluntary. That also helps CASSPLUS reach more people.
Localised: The service must have detailed local knowledge to be able to answer a broad range of questions. Staff or volunteers should be present in court. Stakeholders and those who used CASSPLUS commented on the positive difference it makes to have a physical and familiar presence.
Non-targeted: The service must be available to anyone who appears in court - without restrictions on who is entitled to receive support. Offering help to anyone in court means that CASSPLUS is more likely to reach those in greatest need.