The Tasks Undertaken

The project asked case managers and their managers what tasks they were expected to undertake to achieve the outcomes sought. The expectation to undertake some or all of these tasks may be formally written down or simply assumed through custom and practice. In many jurisdictions, all of the tasks listed were thought to be desirable, if not explicitly expected.  

The link between the outcomes sought and the tasks expected was clearly evident. For example, in jurisdictions where protecting the public was a priority achievement, tasks such as sharing information with others and taking enforcement action were seen as particularly important.

About Case Management

CASELOAD: reported caseload varies from 12 to 200.  Most managers accept that their case managers have more cases and face higher expectations than is reasonable.  Only a minority provide a consistent, structured way of setting priorities.  In most places managing the demand is left to the discretion of the individual case manager; sometimes the decision to de-priortise a case, perhaps by reducing the frequency of contact, is validated by a supervising Judge.

RECORDING: there is a gradual shift from paper to electronic records.  Some places have implemented case record systems which span both prisons and probation, and even courts and the police.  Increasingly, assessment and planning systems are structured and electronic.  There are some strong and divergent views about the scope of structured assessment.  

ACCESS TO SERVICES: the services required to enable case managers to operate as "brokers" often do not exist or are prioritised for other user groups. Having identified a need, case managers are often left trying to provide an equivalent service themselves.  Some jurisdictions have established a framework of protocols about access to services designed to ensure that sentence plans can be implemented properly. There are others where the responsibility for meeting the needs of offenders is clearly located with municipal welfare agencies rather than a separate correctional service.

PUBLIC PROTECTION: an increasing emphasis on public protection has been noted elsewhere.  A small but growing number of jurisdictions have established structured inter-agency arrangements for sharing information and making inter-agency plans involving the police and other local services.  But there remain many where sharing information about dangerous offenders still relies upon the judgement and initiative of individual case managers.  

People

EMPLOYMENT: most case managers in Europe are state employees working for a justice ministry, court service or local welfare service.  There are exceptions in Austria, Baden Wurrtemberg (Germany), Catalonia and the Netherlands.  In Austria, Baden-Wurttemberg and Poland, volunteers are responsible for some lower risk cases.

QUALIFICATIONS: case managers are mostly qualified social workers, social pedagogues or psychologists; their professional training is supplemented by specialist training for working with offenders.  Three jurisdictions have bespoke pre-entry qualifications.  Some places have two grades of case manager where the most highly trained and paid are assigned the more complex cases. 

SPAN: the role of case manager can be found at every stage of the system, although they are often called something different.  They are most often limited to one stage of the system, one provider or one project.  There are some promising continuity initiatives aiming to integrate pre and post-sentence work, and smoothing the transition of release from custody.

FOCUS: in many places public protection now has to be balanced with a traditional focus on personal growth and development. This is sometimes controversial.   An appetite for competition and multiple providers is making the job more complex. The work is becoming increasingly technical, typified by the spread of structured assessment and planning tools, and increasingly technological.

MORALE and STATUS: the project was impressed with the energy and commitment of the case managers it met.  For most, morale is high, despite some challenging work environments and depressing resource prospects.  Their social status is very mixed, held in high regard in some places but viewed with scepticism in others.