Assessment and Reports
When someone has been convicted of an offence the court may ask for a Criminal Justice Social Work Report to be completed before deciding what action to take. This report, which is an assessment carried out by a social worker, helps to assess the suitability of a range of possible sentences to reduce the likelihood of further offending, protect others, and meet the needs of the offender.
Risk assessment is an important part of social work practice in the criminal justice system. Social workers assess the risk of re-offending and serious harm to others when preparing social enquiry and other reports. They also assess the risk posed by offenders supervised in the community on statutory orders or licences.
Criminal Justice Social Work Reports
Criminal Justice Social Work Reports are therefore prepared to assist the court in its sentencing deliberations. A Criminal Justice Social Work Report usually covers the following areas:
- background information
- an analysis of offending behaviour
- personal and social circumstances including for example
- financial circumstances
- family/peer relationships
- education, training and employment
- the risk of self harm
- substance misuse
- an assessment of the risk of re-offending
- an assessment of the risk of serious harm presented by the offender
- offender's attitude and motivation to change
- assesses the risk of custody
- assesses the feasibility of a community based disposal or the need for supervision on release from custody
- offers information and advice which can help the court decide between available sentencing options
A Criminal Justice Social Work Report is an impartial, professional service to the court (not to the offender). The report must be prepared in line with the Scottish Government National Objectives and Standards for the Social Work Services in the Criminal Justice System. The report writer is accountable to the court and to managers of the Angus Council Social Work Criminal Justice Services. Reports must be prepared by qualified social workers (or students undertaking professional training who are supervised by qualified staff).
Offenders have a right to know the contents of the report and are entitled to explanations about why a report is prepared; why specific areas of enquiry are relevant; and that the Criminal Justice Social Work Report may have wide circulation. For example, the report may be referred to publicly in court, a copy given to the prison service in the event of custodial disposal, or to the Parole Board in connection with pre-release decisions.
Reports can also include specific assessments requested by the court or identified by the worker as a method of protecting the public. An example is the Fergus Programme assessment used in cases of domestic abuse.
When a prisoner is due to be considered for release for home leave, home detention curfew on parole or life licence, a report is provided to assist the decision making process. Reports for release on home leave or home detention curfew are prepared for the Scottish Prison Service. For release on parole or life licence, reports are prepared for the Parole Board.
Reports need to:
- assess home background and social circumstances
- update risk assessments
- provide information about the level of supervision and support an individual may require on release, including any special programmes, facilities, or resources which would assist resettlement.