Plans to bring probation services back to the public sector 'an opportunity'

The umbrella body Clinks says the charity sector will have a much greater chance to contribute than under the vilified Transforming Rehabilitation

(Photograph: Jonathan Nicholson/NurPhoto/Getty Images)
(Photograph: Jonathan Nicholson/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

Government plans to bring probation services back into the public sector present a "much greater opportunity" for charities to become involved than under the current scheme, according to the umbrella body Clinks.

David Gauke, the justice secretary, announced today that the government would bring back into the public sector responsibility for the supervision of low and medium-risk offenders from next year, signalling an end to the much-criticised Transforming Rehabilitation programme.

The programme, introduced by the former justice secretary Chris Grayling in 2015, involved the creation of regional community rehabilitation companies through which probation services would be delivered by a mixture of private and voluntary sector organisations.

But voluntary sector involvement in the scheme was far lower than the government had initially hoped.

In a statement made today, Clinks said the reforms "provide a much greater opportunity for voluntary organisations to work with statutory probation services to provide effective support to those who need it".

Anne Fox, chief executive of the charity, said that Clinks called on the government in April to simplify the probation system and reconsider its commitment to contracting out in order to ensure the voluntary sector’s future role in probation.

"It is therefore extremely welcome that the Ministry of Justice has today announced it will do just that," she said.

"This is a real opportunity to ensure that the enormous resources that have been committed, over the last four years, to delivering competition and procurement processes and managing contracts are now used to get people the support they need to stop offending and move on to live fulfilling lives.

"We want to see well-funded services with voluntary sector organisations delivering vital support alongside them."

The charity called on the government to make a commitment to working with the voluntary sector and establish a direct and streamlined relationship with charities and the probation service.

The Ministry of Justice said the reforms would provide up to £280m of funding a year for probation interventions from the private and voluntary sectors.

The MoJ said that under the new model each region would have a dedicated "innovation partner" from the private or voluntary sector that would be responsible for direct provision of unpaid work and accredited programmes.

This would, it said, support the the reconstituted National Probation Service to identify, encourage and deliver greater innovation for vital services, including substance misuse programmes, training courses, community payback and housing support.

The new model will also give local criminal justice partners a direct role in commissioning services together with the NPS.

Gauke said: "The model we are announcing today will harness the skills of private and voluntary providers and draw on the expertise of the National Probation Service to boost rehabilitation, improve standards and ultimately increase public safety."

Gauke said the new model would make it easier for a range of voluntary and community organisations to get into the probation market by cutting bureaucracy.

He said a fund of £20m a year would be set aside for particularly innovative new approaches.

Jacob Tas, chief executive of Nacro, which provides services including those designed to reduce offending, said the announcement was a "a huge opportunity to drive dramatic change for people leaving prison or under community supervision and for wider society".

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