Sanctions proposed for probation failings

Charities delivering probation services on behalf of the state will face fines or have their contracts withdrawn if they don't meet minimum standards, according to government plans announced last week.

The Government introduced a new clause to the Offender Management Bill that would require all voluntary, public and private sector providers that take on probation contracts to meet a set of national standards published by the Ministry of Justice. Failure to do so would result in penalties.

"A range of sentences will be available, including financial penalties," said Lord Bassam of Brighton, Government spokesman for offender management. "Termination of the contract will be the ultimate sanction."

The amendment was introduced during the bill's committee stage in response to a similar amendment tabled by the Conservatives. Opposition peers remain concerned that penalties will work only one way.

"There is no guarantee in the bill that the Government will be penalised if it does not abide by the terms of a contract," Baroness Anelay of St Johns, shadow home affairs spokeswoman, told Third Sector.

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