Probation service left in ‘fragile’ state after revamp | UK News

A shake-up of the probation service has left it in a worse position than before, according to a scathing report by MPs.

The influential Public Accounts Committee has accused the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) of taking “unacceptable” risks with taxpayers’ money by pushing through a partial privatisation at “breakneck speed”.

Instead of the expected reduction in re-offending, the rate increased by 22% from 2011 to March 2017.

Additionally, the number of offenders recalled to prison for breaching their licence conditions was up 47% between January 2015 and September 2018.

Prison cell
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The MPs’ report described probation services as underfunded and fragile

The MPs’ report described probation services as underfunded, fragile and lacking the confidence of the courts.

They added: “Inexcusably, probation services have been left in a worse position than they were in before the ministry embarked on its reforms.”

The government had blamed the increase in re-offending on an extension of statutory supervision for offenders sentenced to less than 12 months.

But the committee said the MoJ had “acknowledged that it had not got post-sentence supervision right”.

The Ministry of Justice received a complaint from a woman
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The Ministry of Justice plans to end the CRC contracts early

The report also said the service had failed to address needs such as suitable accommodation, with some offenders given tents after their release from prison.

Committee chairwoman Meg Hillier said the MoJ had “failed to bring about the promised revolution in rehabilitation”.

She added: “Rather than deliver the savings hoped for at the start of the programme, the ministry’s attempts to address the failures in the reforms have cost the taxpayer an additional £467m while failing to achieve the anticipated improvements in re-offending behaviour.

“Over-optimistic initial forecasts left the Ministry of Justice fighting fires of their own making since the programme’s inception.”

Chris Grayling MP
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Chris Grayling was in charge during the change

In 2014, then justice secretary Chris Grayling led a programme that saw 35 probation trusts replaced by 21 privately-owned Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and the public-sector National Probation Service, which looks after high-risk cases.

The MoJ plans to end the CRC contracts early, in December next year.

Speaking on behalf of Interserve, MTC, Seetec and Sodexo – companies which are responsible for 17 of the CRCs – Seetec managing director John Baumback said taxpayers will save about £700m over the five-year contracts.

A MoJ spokesman said: “We want a probation service that puts public protection first, commands the confidence of the courts and breaks the cycle of re-offending.

“Our reforms mean 40,000 more offenders are being supervised, which is the right move for public safety, but the current model is not working and we need to do more.”

Probation services manage more than 250,000 offenders in England and Wales, including those preparing for release from jail, those who have already been released and those serving community or suspended sentences.

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