Probation reforms 'will be unsuccessful if no voluntary organisations win contracts'

Senior civil servant Antonia Romeo tells the Third Sector Impact Measurement Conference the Ministry of Justice wants credible bids from the sector

MoJ: seeking credible bids
MoJ: seeking credible bids

The government’s rehabilitation reforms will not have been a success if no voluntary sector organisations win contracts to become prime providers, a senior civil servant said yesterday.

Speaking at the Third Sector Impact Measurement conference in London yesterday, Antonia Romeo, director of the criminal justice group at the Ministry of Justice, said: "We hope there are really creditable bids from the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector to win tier-one contracts.

"We think that if we don’t have any VCSE providers at tier one, this project will not have been a success."

The government is planning to replace 35 probation trusts, which provide supervision to medium and low-risk offenders, with a network of 21 privately contracted providers. The scheme will contain both a fixed-fee probation element – which will make up the bulk of the contract – and a payment-by-results element, aimed at reducing reoffending, which is likely to be a relatively small amount of the whole.

Romeo said the government had introduced a number of measures to support voluntary sector organisations working with prisoners and to make it easier for sector organisations to win contracts.

"Voluntary sector organisations are absolutely essential to what we’re trying to do," she said. "Opening up the market is the key purpose of these reforms.

"Think about what partnerships you can form, formal or informal, including consortia, in order to deliver services."

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