Official Report (Hansard)
Date: Tuesday, 24 February 2009
Members present for all or part of the proceedings:
Mr Jimmy Spratt (Chairperson)
Mr Raymond McCartney (Deputy Chairperson)
Mr Alex Attwood
Mr Simon Hamilton
Mr Alex Maskey
Mr Alan McFarland
Mr Ian Paisley Jnr
Ms Maura Canavan ) Probation Board for Northern Ireland
Ms Cheryl Lamont )
Mr Brian McCaughey )
Mr David van der Merwe )
Also in Attendance:
Mr Victor Hewitt ) Specialist adviser
The Chairperson (Mr Spratt):
I welcome representatives of the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) to this oral evidence session of the Committee; thank you for coming along. The Committee is examining the financial issues on the eventual devolution of policing and justice issues to the Northern Ireland Assembly. I declare an interest as a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.
Mr A Maskey:
I also declare an interest as a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.
Mr Paisley Jnr:
I, too, declare an interest as a member of the Northern Ireland Policing Board.
When the other members arrive, I will also ask them to declare whether they have any interests.
I welcome the director of probation, Brian McCaughey, and David van der Merwe, Cheryl Lamont and Maura Canavan. You are very welcome. I ask that you give a short opening address, after which Committee members can ask you questions.
Before you begin, Ronnie Spence, chairperson of the Probation Board for Northern Ireland, has tendered an apology. He is unable to attend the meeting because he has another engagement this afternoon. However, he said that he is happy to address, at a later stage, any issues that the Committee might have.
Once again, I ask members to switch off their mobile phones, because they interfere with the recording equipment. I also remind members that Hansard is recording this session, and therefore, everything that is said is on the record.
Mr Brian McCaughey (Probation Board for Northern Ireland):
Thank you for the invitation to give oral evidence to the Committee. The Probation Board for Northern Ireland is a non-departmental public body that is answerable, at present, through an independent board on to the Northern Ireland Office. Probation has existed as a public service for more than 100 years and has been provided in Northern Ireland through a non-departmental public body since 1982. Our mission is to make communities in Northern Ireland safer by assessing and managing the risk that offenders pose.
We aim to reduce crime and the harm that it does by challenging and changing the attitudes and behaviours of offenders. We are one of the smallest organisations in the criminal justice family, albeit that we are centrally involved in the assessment and management of offenders.
We provide 9,500 reports to judges and parole commissioners annually, including 6,000 pre-sentence reports to assist judges in determining sentences. Additionally, the Probation Board supervises 4,000 offenders who are subject to court orders, 3,200 of whom are in the community and 800 of whom are serving sentences and awaiting release. As measured by reconviction rates, we are among the most effective probation bodies in the UK.
The comprehensive spending review (CSR07) provided PBNI with the additional resources to assist in the implementation of new legislation and sentencing. We very much welcome having that extra money to assist us in carrying out the additional responsibilities, and we acknowledge the effort that the NIO made to secure those resources. However, the outcome fell short of what we requested. More significant is the very large gap that has emerged over the past decade or so in spending on probation in England and Wales in comparison with Northern Ireland.
I refer members to a paper that was published in December 2008 by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College, London — ‘Criminal Justice Resources Staffing and Workloads: An Initial Assessment’ — which reported a 160% real-terms increase in spending on probation between 1999 and 2005 in England and Wales. In Northern Ireland, the increase was 13% over the same period. It is always difficult to be sure that one is comparing like with like, and I understand that, given the differences in structures, systems and staffing grades, but I am wholly confident in concluding that probation in Northern Ireland has not enjoyed the similar increase in resourcing as experienced in England and Wales, and indeed by our colleagues in the South of Ireland.
Another significant area where we believe that we are underfunded is in our capacity to work in partnership with the voluntary and community sectors in preventing offending and re-offending. We work in, with and through the community, and we wish to address that area for the future. In the past, some 20% of the PBNI budget was devoted to that vital work, but other budget pressures have meant that it has been gradually squeezed throughout the decade, with the result that it is now around £1·2 million a year. That represents 7%, as opposed to 20%, of the budget.
In conclusion, PBNI is one of the smallest organisations in the criminal justice family; nonetheless, we are central to assessment and management, supervising most offenders within the system. Our focus is on achieving positive change in offenders, thus reducing crime and the harm that it does. We, as an organisation, balance care and control, and we always prioritise public safety. Uniquely, we deliver our services locally, in offenders’ homes, in a family context, in his or her community, and along with voluntary, community and statutory partners.
We apply Northern Ireland standards and service requirements in an individualised case-management approach to supervision. Independent reconviction data demonstrate that that approach is highly effective, but the overall allocation of resources has historically not adequately reflected our responsibilities and is significantly out of line with spending patterns in England and Wales.
Mr Paisley Jnr:
Thank you. At the outset, I will say that I admire your guts and candour in spelling out a very clear written report to us, which clearly shows where you have pressures and where you need money to be spent. It also gives us a reasonably good steer as to what we should be asking the Northern Ireland Office for. Thank you for not giving us any fancy verbiage or footwork on this. Your presentation was straight to the point, and I admire your candour.
If I am correct, you said in your report that the probation service’s budget is £18 million a year below what you believe is required. Over the CSR period of three years, that is £52 million short of what you require. Is that correct?
Mr Paisley Jnr:
Secondly, I want to ask about delays in the implementation of the Criminal Justice ( Northern Ireland) Order 2008. As you know, the NIO has indicated, and many of the wise and the good have told us, that this is the twenty-first century way of doing things under the Order. You are saying that if you are not resourced properly, you will not be able to implement the Order properly or that there will be significant delays in its implementation. That would obviously create a backlog in the system, putting more pressure on the prisons and so on.
If you were to get that additional money, would that mean that other money would be released and given to the other parts of the justice portfolio? For example, do you think that less money would have to be given to the Prison Service, or, if we were able to feed that money into that service, would a saving made be elsewhere? Realistically, do we need that money as well as that which we are getting?
Mr David van der Merwe (Probation Board for Northern Ireland):
It is anticipated that there will be savings across, as you say, the entire criminal justice system, particularly in respect of those sentenced for fine default. It is proposed that such people should be made to do supervised activity orders or community service, thus freeing up prison spaces. Electronic monitoring will enable some individuals who are currently on remand awaiting sentence to be released on bail, which would again free up prison places. There is also the conditioned early-release scheme. However, we are not in a position to make any judgement on whether the Prison Service can make any savings, given the structural nature of the facilities that it manages. Certainly, there is an intention to move people out of prison and into the community, reserving prison for the most dangerous.
Mr Paisley Jnr:
Therefore, if you get money and are able to do your job in the way that you want to, could major savings potentially be made at the expensive end of the delivery of the justice system?
Mr van der Merwe:
Mr Paisley Jnr:
That is very interesting.
I also want to ask you about one of the specific projects that you mentioned in your paper, which is the integration of the case-management system with the Causeway Programme. Potentially, that could cost just over £1·25 million. I, as a member of the Policing Board — which I have already declared as an interest — am aware that we have been following the Causeway Programme for nearly six years. What is the timescale for the Probation Board’s being integrated into that programme?
Mr van der Merwe:
Currently, it is estimated that the Probation Board will come online to the Causeway Programme in autumn 2011, given that the current phase that integrates the Court Service and the Prison Service into the Causeway Programme is about to go live imminently, just before the summer of this year. Planning will then begin for the next phase, which brings the Probation Board and further functionality for the Prison Service into the system.
Mr Paisley Jnr:
If you spend the ballpark figure of £1·25 million, will you save money ultimately? Will that help to save money, or can you explain why that expenditure is necessary and why we should be drawing up a bid that includes that cost?
Mr van der Merwe:
That expenditure will bring about savings in the paper-intensive nature of the current system. Currently, any pre-sentence reports that we prepare are printed out and hand delivered to the Court Service, which must then read those papers into its electronic system. The programme also improves security and data protection considerably, as it makes it possible to submit reports electronically via a secure network from the Probation Board to the Court Service, as well as facilitating other data exchanges between the Probation Board and the Prison Service on the management of offenders. Therefore, there are two benefits: one is on the security of data and data protection; and the other is on the efficiencies that it will create.
I echo Ian’s opening comments about the frankness of both your presentation and the papers that you have given to us. I am sure that the Chairperson will not be asking whether these witnesses are trotting out the orthodox line from the Treasury or NIO.
I think that they have escaped from the clutches of NIO and the Treasury.
Mr Paisley Jnr:
You may have lost their Christmas card, but you have ours.
Such candour makes our job much easier — we are not having to hoke about looking for problems because you are very open and honest. In comparison with recent years, you have a fairly hefty capital budget going forward. What does that entail, and is it sufficient? Is there a belief in the service that that capital budget is sufficient to meet the capital demands that are being put on you, aside from the IT project, which has been touched on?
Mr van der Merwe:
There are two main elements to that project. The first is the physical facilities from which we operate. Being a community organisation that operates in the community, we need to have facilities in most regional towns throughout Northern Ireland. Over the years, our estate has suffered as a result of a lack of investment, so the first element of the project concerns refreshing the estate. In particular, we need to provide interview facilities and group-work facilities for offenders, which, by their nature, must ensure that any conversations that take place in them are private, and there must also be a certain consciousness about the personal safety of our staff. It is not just a question of renting open-plan office space.
The second element concerns the ongoing investment in IT facilities, a significant chunk of which includes the refresh of our own case-management system, as well as the general upgrade of IT facilities, which continues each year. The shortfall that we highlighted concerns the capital cost of integrating our case-management system with the Causeway Programme’s IT system.
Having said that, the announcement last week of the withdrawal from Workplace 2010, and the potential signal that that sends about a change in the Government’s intention as to whether they wish to own or rent property, has implications. Our budget was drawn up on the basis that we would be selling off all our estate and renting back property, albeit not at a private finance initiative level, because the facilities are too small. A rethink is required, given that we are not sure whether we can realistically sell the properties that we currently own. There are around £1·3 million of presumed proceeds in that capital funding — effectively an element of self-funding — that we are no longer confident that we can achieve. Therefore, an additional £1·3 million may be required over and above the £1·2 million that we have already flagged for the Causeway Programme integration.
Had the service intended to completely change its estate and move away from current accommodation to entirely new accommodation?
Mr van der Merwe:
Our estate is currently around 60% owned and 40% leased, and we intended to phase out the remaining owned properties.
Mr A Maskey:
Thank you for the presentation. Brian, you said that under CSR07 you got additional resources to cope with the further requirements on the service, and, obviously, you welcomed that. However, you are still £18 million a year short. The presentation listed a number of areas in which that deficit has had an effect, including the fact that:
“frontline service delivery will be reduced.”
That sentence is repeated for two areas. Some of those pressures are self-explanatory; however, I am trying to get a handle on what the real pressures are. In other words, what needs to be done in those areas?
For us, the pressures are in the number of offenders that we require one probation officer to supervise them. Given that the new legislation is primarily about public-protection sentences and sexual and violent offenders, as director of the board, I want to ensure that that is at a manageable and doable level. That is the reason that my ideal world was outlined in the presentation, and I understand that that has to be balanced against realism. However, I felt — and the Committee has obviously understood — that that presentation should describe my ideal world, along with the four additional areas that have been identified. In answer to your question, the major pressure concerns the number of offenders that one probation officer would be expected to supervise.
Mr van der Merwe:
As the director said, probation staffing is structured around an individual case-management approach. We need to cut according to our cloth; however, in reality, a probation officer would supervise more offenders than is perhaps ideal or would be considered best practice. We cannot cut out areas of service altogether because every offender needs attention. The degree to which we can give adequate attention to each offender and challenge and change their behaviour is important — I think that that is where we may lose some of our benefit.
I can respond to that; indeed, I touched on this point earlier. O ur approach, historically, has been to work in partnership. Everything that we do is in partnership; however, our ability to support community and voluntary groups and to get them to work with us will be reduced greatly by that budget pressure.
Mr A Maskey:
You gave figures for the considerable number of reports that the Probation Board provides for the Court Service, for example. Are there any examples — and these may be difficult to provide — of when work has fallen down because the appropriate level of staff was unavailable? In other words, are there any elements of the system that simply do not work because of the deficit that you described?
Before you answer, Mr McCaughey, I inform the Committee that I must leave the Chair. That is no reflection on the answer that you are about to give. I am due to speak first in the Chamber when the debate resumes after lunch. The Deputy Chairperson, Raymond McCartney, will take the Chair.
(The Deputy Chairperson [Mr McCartney] in the Chair)
I can answer that question fairly quickly. We have Northern Ireland standards and service requirements for the supervision of offenders. However, if we had insufficient staffing or resources, we would have to move away from those standards and service requirements. It is not simply by chance that the Probation Board for Northern Ireland has a high success rate; the standards and service requirements that we apply are of a high order, and we supervise offenders very thoroughly. However, if resources were insufficient, we would have to step back from those expected standards.
Thank you for the detail, as well as the tone, of your submission. I have two or three questions to ask. Some of the figures that you outlined project beyond 2010-11. It is important that we anticipate that, especially in respect of the outworking of the Criminal Justice ( Northern Ireland) Order 2008.
As regards the current spending period up to 2011, I remember that the Probation Broad was offered funding for implementing the outworking of the Order, but it indicated that it was content with the funding that it received as a result of the negotiations with the NIO and Paul Goggins on its budget lines and work on the Order. Subject to what you said, that is my recollection. What has changed in the past year to make the Probation Board realise that it needs more money to carry out its work in following through the legislation?
I understand your question, and you are correct. However, the Probation Board and I approached this evidence session as an opportunity to update the Committee on our current and future situation and to reflect on the past.
We made our submission under the Criminal Justice Order ( Northern Ireland) 2008; however, we did not get our full submission, yet we were content that what we got would allow the board to move forward. That has been the approach that the organisation has adopted. We have never, ever received our full requests. Our organisation has a “can-do” approach — we have cut our cloth accordingly and moved forward positively.
Mr van der Merwe:
An element of that £600,000 for the sentencing framework was not delivered. The Northern Ireland Office agreed to that by delaying the implementation of certain aspects of the legislation, in particular, the roll-out of the bail-information scheme. We had proposed a certain roll-out timetable; however, the Northern Ireland Office extended that timetable, and, consequently, the Probation Board had to operate with fewer resources. Therefore, there was an agreed approach to rolling it out. We got everything that we had asked for, but the timing was sometimes delayed beyond the CSR07 period.
Ms Maura Canavan (Probation Board for Northern Ireland):
When we were carrying out the exercise on the CSR07, we reviewed the baseline for our ongoing work, excluding all the new work under the sentencing framework, and our baseline budget was cut. Therefore, although we received the money for the sentencing framework according to the timings, the overall requirements that we submitted were reduced.
Is there an adequate budget line for the business that the Probation Board does in respect of the Order? I am concerned that, in general, the budget lines that relate to the consequences of that Order, whether for the work of the Prison Service, Probation Service, or any other service, are simply not sufficient to fulfil the expectations of the legislation. The evidence from England and from the parole commissioners supports my concern. Within two or three years, when prisoners say that they want to be released, will it be the case that the regimes to facilitate that, or even to get them a hearing of any weight before the parole commissioners, will not be in place because of a lack of funding?
We were content that we could deliver a service based on the allocation that we received. The main difference is that the presumption of dangerousness that exists in England and Wales must be determined by the courts here. In Northern Ireland, there is no automatic presumption of dangerousness set against a schedule of offences of a violent or sexual nature. In England and Wales, an individual who was convicted of such an offence would automatically go to prison. However, as that is not the case in Northern Ireland, I do not envisage as many people going to prison here.
The member raised an important point, but I stress to the Committee that some individuals will still go to prison for violent and sexual offences. It is imperative that programmes in prison are available to allow those individuals to evidence the reduction in the risk that they pose. Otherwise, the parole commissioners will left be with the dilemma of how on earth to evidence a reduction in risk that would allow them to decide whether to release those prisoners.
It may interest you to know that the director of the Prison Service gave evidence that it has had to set aside parcels of money to create the new regime over the next couple of years. He also flagged up the issue that being able to recruit qualified staff to carry out the work in prisons was another matter.
You make a big play for extra funding in order to decrease the ratio of officer to offender and, usefully, you provided the figures for comparable jurisdictions. Is the ratio in Northern Ireland decreasing?
Ms Cheryl Lamont (Probation Board for Northern Ireland):
That ratio has remained steady for a period. Perhaps I could take the liberty of describing briefly the work of a typical probation officer. I am a probation officer in Dungannon, and my caseload of 24 cases includes those that range through low-, medium- to high-risk offenders. I also prepare four court reports each month. As Brian McCaughey, the head of the organisation, said, probation officers operate standards of practice that provide both an effective mechanism for the supervision of offenders and public assurance.
I must also provide a service to the court, probably for a couple of mornings each month. In addition, I co-deliver an anger-management programme. I stress the fact that probation officers are not office based. We deliver our work in the streets and communities of Northern Ireland. To that end, we connect with local community and voluntary groups, and we represent the organisation in various fora, such as in domestic violence partnerships and child-protection panels. A probation officer does all that work and is also, quite rightly, expected to attend team meetings on the internal communication of the organisation.
The Probation Board employs qualified social workers as the main deliverers of the service, and they will be expected to adhere to, and to continually develop, their professional expertise. Therefore, a lot of demands are placed on them. I stress that, as we go forward with the complexity of the work, when I was a front-line worker, I took notes with a pen and paper, which David alluded to. However, we now have case-management systems in which we input our work.
I also stress that the tools that we — thankfully — now use in the assessment and management of offenders require time to complete. Furthermore, in comparison to the time taken, the assessment, case-management and evaluation (ACE) tool, which is what we call our validated instrument, is more user-friendly than the offender assessment system (OASys) tool that is used in England and Wales. Therefore, in my view, the caseload has remained fairly similar in some ways, but there is a complexity to the work across the range, which, hopefully, I have explained to you.
My concern is that your community budget is getting squeezed from 20% to 7·5%, and it may get squeezed further, which is not good. There is an increasing number of prisoners, so attempts must be made to reduce the ratio of offenders to probation officers. Robin Masefield said that the number will increase by up to 5% per annum over the next number of years. There is also the Order to consider, which is very expensive to implement. Therefore, for those four reasons, there will be serious budgetary pressures over and above anything that might arise either because of the general budgetary situation or because the Exchequer is going to get very mean about the budget for the devolution of justice generally.
Looking ahead two or three years, there will be some difficult situations, because, in the current budgetary environment, I do not know how those four objectives can be attained in the current and likely budgetary environment. I am on the same page as Brian on this issue, but, for the purposes of the report —
I understand the member’s comments, and I look forward to engaging in those challenges for the future. Those are the real challenges. I am not so sure about an increase in prisoners over the next number of years, and it will be for the Assembly and the Department of justice to promote use of our prisons for the most dangerous, violent people who will cause hurt and harm to our families. If that is the strategy, how, therefore, should we manage all the others? Surely, the numbers of people going to prison for non-payment of fines cannot be right; surely, in Northern Ireland, we can think of a more effective, worthwhile way to allow those offenders to make good the harm that they have done to society and to make some payback to society by way of specified activities or some sort of community service.
I should have mentioned earlier that perhaps we could do more about prevention and diversion to determine whether people actually enter this system of ours, because once they join the system, it is very hard to get off the rails. I wonder whether there are other ways of managing people — and female offenders in particular — before they are brought into the court system. We are developing a new strategy, which is out for consultation, on how we can engage with female offenders and deal with all the issues and reasons why they might offend and, if at all possible, prevent them from having to go to prison. We can then deal with the issues that are involved, particularly where parenting issues, children, mental health and addictions are concerned.
I would also look at specific sentence reports, as opposed to full reports to court, in the context of savings. I am not sure that we need 6,000 reports to court, because I believe that I could tell very quickly whether someone needed a full report or an initial assessment, which would direct the court. Savings could be made in those areas, so I do not see the world as being totally negative. In fact, we have a great opportunity.
Mr Paisley Jnr:
On that issue of reporting, I am not trying to set you up against the people with whom you work. However, is there a culture in the courts system whereby people want all paperwork and reports before they will pass sentence or make a determination, or is there a willingness to take guidance and direction on an expert or a directed report?
We are piloting a new arrangement for the provision of specific sentence reports in order to evidence the reduction, delay and increase in saved days and the effectiveness of the decisions in order to ensure that people can take up community service.
Mr Paisley Jnr:
How that progressing? Is it too soon to say?
It is improving. However, as you suggested, we are attempting to change custom, practice and culture.
Thank you for your briefing and answers. I want to examine the ratios and cost of supervision. It is clearly important that high-risk offenders are supervised properly, and the same argument could apply to medium-risk offenders. Although it is ideal by your standards, would it make an enormous difference if more low-risk offenders were allocated for each individual officer? Although reoffending rates are lower here than in England, they are still enormous. There are questions about the effectiveness of the system, because some individuals are career criminals who will continue, even under supervision, to be criminals. How effective and cost-effective is that?
What is the role of the Northern Ireland Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NIACRO)? Am I right in saying that it is a separate organisation? The voluntary sector, including community restorative justice, and other agencies manage offenders when they are released from prison. In the longer term, will an issue arise about how well money is being spent, either by those groups or by organisations that look after people when they leave prison? The system seems to involve an enormous number of people, and money is being drawn from different sources. Is that a good way to spend money in the longer term when budgets start to tighten?
That is a great question. As director of probation, I believe that if we are tasked to give a lead on the assessment and management of offenders in Northern Ireland, we should at least have a say as to which groups that work with offenders receive money. That is not fully the case today. Our submission outlines the funding and budget that my counterpart in the South of Ireland receives. All money for engaging with offenders in the voluntary and community sector in the South is channelled through the probation service. The Committee should consider that.
Mr McFarland is absolutely right. Based on NISRA’s independent research on the matter, Northern Ireland is more effective in this field than anywhere else. Three out of four people on our community-service scheme will not have been reconvicted within two years. Moreover, seven out of 10 people on community supervision will not have been reconvicted in two years. Those figures are unmatched elsewhere because of how we do our business in, with and through the community and because of our high standards on service requirements.
That leads me on to the future, when policing and justice powers will be devolved. In order for the community to understand and have confidence in criminal justice, they need to be involved in its delivery. I am seeking, through our submission and through the additional moneys that we have requested, to increase our community-development budget in order to allow us to engage further with community groups on the management of offenders, particularly lower-risk offenders. I want the Probation Board for Northern Ireland to return to the world of diversionary activities and engaging with communities. I do not want to only deal with one son in a family who has been in trouble, but deal with the second son who is at risk of becoming involved. Quite frequently, parents ask for help with him because he is going along the same lines as his brother.
Earlier, we heard from the Youth Justice Agency of Northern Ireland, which has an enormous budget and sees itself getting involved again in that sort of activity. There is an effort to find more money for youth diversion in the policing world and in youth justice. A number of different agencies see themselves as being the deliverer on those sorts of matters. Is there an issue in trying to get the police, the Probation Board and youth justice into some common agreement over who should do that work and who should be funded to do it?
I appreciate the question. In our submission, we put a figure on where we believe that additional moneys should go to community development to work with adjudicated offenders. That is for us to engage further with the community in order to engage with adjudicated offenders. That is based on our knowledge and experience over the past 27 years and on the reduction in budget that has been mentioned.
However, I am a realist, and it would be a decision for the future as to whether that money would come to the Probation Board, which has responsibility for the assessment and management of risk that is posed by offenders, or whether there would be some other mechanism that a Department of justice would wish to look at to co-ordinate and better target that funding. As the body that is responsible for the supervision of 4,000 offenders, 3,200 of whom are in the community, that is the uplift that I would require to seek to enrich the community and voluntary sector to work with me.
I wish to clarify a couple of points on the figures that you presented. The CSR shortfall for 2008-09 to 2010-11 is £4·1 million. There is a shortfall beyond the CSR period for the Order of £4·85 million. From 2011-12 onwards, there is a shortfall of £11·07 million from the revision of offender ratios. The shortfall from the case-management system integration with the Causeway Programme is £1·29 million, and there is a shortfall of £2·6 million from community development. That is a total shortfall of £23·91 million, minus £1·02 million from 2008-09, which has passed already. That gives a total figure of £22·89 million. How does that figure fit with the figure of £18 million that you highlighted?
Mr van der Merwe:
Some figures are annual figures. The case-management system figure is a one-off amount of £1·2 million, as opposed to the revision ratios, which are an annual amount. There is almost an element of double counting in the way that you have analysed the figures.
The £4·8 million for the Order going beyond 2011 is an annual figure. We have disregarded the actual shortfall in the current CSR period in calculating the figure for the year as £18 million. We have only worked on the Order figures going forward of £4·8 million a year, the revision of supervision ratios of £11·1 million a year, and the community development figure of £2·6 million, which gives £18·2 million. The capital money for the Causeway Programme is separate from that.
I have one more question about the board’s agency status. Does the board pay VAT as part of the NIO arrangements?
Mr van der Merwe:
The board is not registered as a VAT vendor. We have to pay VAT on all our invoices, but we cannot claim it back.
Thank you for that. Do members have any further questions?
Thank you for coming along. Are you aware of any other issues that could have a material and inescapable consequence for your budget in future? It is refreshing to see that, as was shown in the first presentation, you are not in the clutches of the Treasury or the NIO. You have given us an honest and upfront presentation, which is a good news story. I assume that if policing and justice powers were to be devolved in the near future you will not trundle along with cap in hand, saying that you wanted a few million pounds that you did not tell us about.
I reiterate that we have approached this event — and our submission — by outlining as best we can to the Committee exactly what the situation is for the Probation Board. We do not have a world of surprises for the future. I am telling you as I see it so that the Committee is as informed as it possibly can be.
I also reiterate that the Probation Board is one of the smaller organisations in the system. However, our track record provides strong evidence of our value for money and creativity. I hope that we have demonstrated our positivism and can-do approach. We have adopted a localised and individualised community response to the management of offenders, and we have a strong history of working in partnership in local communities with the voluntary and community sectors and in a North/South and European context. Above all else, our performance and results stand up against anyone else’s, and I ask the Committee to look at that.
The Probation Board is a growing and vibrant organisation that pursues excellence in everything that it does. We look forward to working with all Departments on all the issues that have an impact on offending. We believe that in Northern Ireland we have an opportunity to set a standard for criminal justice for others. We believe that we can give a lead for the future. As director of the Probation Board, I want the Committee to know that the organisation wishes to play a full and central role in assisting the Assembly in its aspirations for the future of criminal justice.
Thank you for being so frank and upfront with us. We may seek written clarification on certain points or we may ask you to speak to the Committee again directly. I wish you well.