In August 2020, Crest began an evaluation of CASS+ (Community Advice and Support Services Plus) in Devon and Cornwall. CASS+ is a third sector organisation which places highly trained staff and volunteers in magistrates' courts to help defendants and their families find the services they need.
Crest has developed a ‘theory of change’ which sets out the overall aim of the service as promoting social inclusion, and identifies the long-term outcomes as reduced reoffending, increased sentence compliance and improved client wellbeing and access to support.
In the first phase of the evaluation (completed in December), Crest looked at the CASS+ operating model and processes to understand how the organisation targets clients, how effectively it does this, and how affordable and proportionate the service is. This initial process evaluation involved collecting and analysing data from the CASS+ client database as well as published data sources (Home Office and Ministry of Justice crime and outcomes statistics), interviewing staff and stakeholders from other support services locally and key Criminal Justice System stakeholders including Magistrates and Court staff, and conducting, literature and evidence reviews.
Using this information, Crest has identified the six key elements of the CASS+ model. These elements were highlighted in stakeholder interviews as core to the successful operation of the CASS+ service.
We want our evaluation to establish a clear rationale for the replication and expansion of the model in other areas, as well as codifying the key implementation and delivery factors that will drive success. To help with this, we will be conducting a full cost benefit analysis for the service, quantifying the economic, financial and commercial benefits (or disbenefits) of the model.
To feed into the Cost Benefit Analysis, we will first need to determine how well CASS+ achieves its intended outcomes. Therefore, our next steps involve partnering with the Justice Data Lab (hosted by the Ministry of Justice) to compare reoffending rates for CASS+ service users with a control group of offenders who do not receive the service. We will also interview service users (defendants and their families) to understand the impact of the service on their needs and wellbeing, and conduct quantitative analysis of service-users' self-defined ‘level-of-need’ scores at the start and end of their engagement with CASS+. This will tell us how well the service identifies, addresses and resolves the needs of service users, and therefore reduces the likelihood of offending/re-offending.
The evaluation is being funded by the Centre for Justice Innovation (CJI) via the Lloyds Foundation. The CJI is currently providing support for areas looking to implement a similar service to the CASS+ model locally as part of the wider project funded by the Lloyds Foundation. You can find out more about their offer here. To find out more about Crest and our evaluation capabilities, visit the website here.