Government accepts it did not involve enough charities in probation service reforms

The admission in a Ministry of Justice response to a critical committee report follows the decision to abandon the Transforming Rehabilitation programme

An inmate and an adviser at Holloway prison, London (Photograph: Photofusion Picture Library/Alamy)
An inmate and an adviser at Holloway prison, London (Photograph: Photofusion Picture Library/Alamy)

The Ministry of Justice has accepted that it did not do enough to involve charities in its flagship Transforming Rehabilitation programme.

In minutes released by HM Treasury in response to recent Public Accounts Committee reports, the MoJ said Transforming Rehabilitation had been a failure and it would seek greater involvement from charities in probation services.

The MoJ’s statement comes after a critical PAC report, published earlier this year, about the programme and its failure, as well as criticism from the National Audit Office.

Under Transforming Rehabilitation, the government abolished 35 probation trusts and awarded contracts to 21 community rehabilitation companies to manage low to medium-risk offenders in England and Wales.

Voluntary sector involvement in the scheme was far lower than the government had initially hoped, and a Justice Select Committee report in 2018 said the number of charities working in the rehabilitation system had fallen as a result of Transforming Rehabilitation.

The MoJ announced earlier this year that it would bring an end to the scheme in 2020 and move responsibility for offenders back into the public sector, a move that was welcomed by charities.

In its response, the MoJ accepted it had failed to involve voluntary sector organisations in delivering probation services on the scale promised, and said it was fully committed to giving charities a bigger role in probation services.

A more flexible approach to commissioning should generate £280m for services, including those provided by more specialist and voluntary organisations, the response said.

The MoJ agreed it had let down offenders and those working in the justice system by enacting the reforms and said it would address the failings highlighted.

The department accepted the committee’s assertion that the "breakneck speed" with which Transforming Rehabilitation was implemented created an "unacceptable level of risk" and the safeguards put in place to protect the taxpayer were insufficient.

It also accepted the committee’s conclusion that the reforms had led to an "underfunded and fragile probation market" that would be unable to cope with any further provider failures.

Community rehabilitation companies now have contingency plans in place to ensure any services are not affected by the collapse of a service provider, the MoJ said.

An overarching strategy to reduce reoffending is also being put in place, it added.

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