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UK Government Handing Probation Services Over to Private and Voluntary Sectors

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Probation services to move to private and voluntary sector

Article posted on Civilsociety.co.uk by Jonathan Last 9 January 2013

The government intends to hand the supervision of low-risk offenders over to the private and voluntary sectors on a payment-by-results basis.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling revealed on BBC News’ Today programme the plans for an overhaul of probation services in England and Wales, under which private firms, charities and voluntary organisations would take over the management of low-risk offenders from the probation service.

The public sector probation service currently manages most released prisoners and people serving community sentences via 35 trusts across England and Wales. Under the proposals, which are subject to a six-week consultation period, serious sexual and violent offenders will still be managed by the state.

“I want to capture the skills that exist across the public, private and voluntary sectors,” Grayling said, adding that he wants the system to be open to “former offenders turned good” to have the chance to help influence less serious offenders to not reoffend.

The government will also be offering £500,000 to voluntary and community sector groups to help them bid for probation contracts.

Probation officers’ union Napo has reportedly claimed that the move will lead to the demise of the 105-year-old public probation service in England and Wales.

These proposals build on a previous consultation last year which set out plans to compete out probation services and increase the use of Payment by Results. The new system is designed to be fully in place by early 2015.

Social Finance: ‘Plan needs adequate resources’

Social Finance, which is responsible for the Peterborough Prison social impact bond, welcomed today’s announcement, and encouraged the Secretary of State for Justice to look beyond the probation budget alone to finance the proposal.

“The criminal justice system costs the taxpayer £6.3bn a year – at present we spend 13p in the pound on probation and rehabilitation, and 87p in the pound on locking people up,” said a Social Finance spokeswoman.

“With more resources, better rehabilitation could cut crime and reduce wider criminal justice costs. The allocation of resources between these two areas should therefore be part of this consultation.

“This is possible as any new money would be paid on a results-only basis. Without adequate resources, it will be difficult to ensure that support for rehabilitation is delivered properly and at scale.”

NCVO: ‘Avoid another Work Programme’

Ben Kernighan, deputy chief executive of NCVO, said that the announcement shows that the government recognises the benefits that could come from involving charities in rehabilitation services, but warned that there are lessons to be learnt from the Work Programme.

“Specialist charities, many involving dedicated volunteers, can make all the difference to the lives of people leaving prison and help reduce reoffending,” Kernighan said.

“However, under its most significant public service reform so far, the Work Programme, many charities have found themselves squeezed out by large commercial providers.

“Contracts must be accessible to smaller, local charities, most of which have been shut out by the very large scale of contracts and unrealistic requirements for the amount of capital providers must hold in the Work Programme.”

CAF: ‘Don’t let PBR exclude charities’

Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) said the government must ensure its attempts to introduce payment-by-results for rehabilitation services do not squeeze out charities and community groups.

John Low, chief executive of CAF, said: “Most charities simply cannot afford to take on contracts to tackle social problems without up-front funding because they are not allowed to carry large financial reserves and have limited access to capital compared to for-profit businesses.

“We need to ensure the payment-by-results revolution does not exclude charities so that voluntary sector organisations can play their full part in the heavy lifting needed to transform our public services.”

 

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