What’s next for Transforming Rehabilitation?
In 2014 and 2015 the Ministry of Justice restructured the probation landscape, with the National Probation Service (NPS) supervising high risk offenders and Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) supervising low and medium risk offenders. There is, however, a long way to go to effectively reduce reoffending, underlined by an official inquiry from the House of Commons Justice Committee in October 2017.
The report on Transforming Rehabilitation, released on 22nd June, aims to address the ongoing and structural issues of TR, the main conclusions of which are set out below.
The MoJ had to change the fixed-cost assumptions for creating CRCs from 20% to 77%, identified in a report by the National Audit Office in December 2017. Not only did this add an extra £342 million onto the cost of TR contracts, it also raises serious questions over the MoJ’s ‘reluctance to challenge overoptimistic bids’. To remedy this, the Justice Committee called for greater transparency on the Ministry’s contracts with CRCs, including any renegotiations on additional funding or expected outcomes.
The performance of CRCs in supporting desistance of low and medium risk offenders was highlighted by the Justice Committee as ‘disappointing’, but believes the CRCs should not carry full responsibility. The payment-by-results mechanism, which underpins the performance of probation providers, offers insufficient incentives to reduce reoffending and it is now unclear how financial penalties are being applied for significant and cyclical underperformance.
Not all issues facing offenders on probation are within the remit of probation services to resolve, in which case the Justice Committee calls upon a ‘cross-Government approach’ to help reduce reoffending. There is a strong correlation between homelessness and reoffending, therefore, prior to release, there should be an onus on Government to inform Local Authorities, and if applicable ‘deemed vulnerable for the purposes of the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017’.
The Justice Committee remains unconvinced that the current model of TR will ever deliver ‘an effective or viable probation service’. This has reignited the debate on the long-term future and sustainability of delivering probation services and alternative systems.
The Howard League for Penal Reform have shed light on their developing thoughts on a new vision of probation – ‘Community Justice’ with a greater focus on structure and service delivery. This would only be effective, Frances Crook points out, if a new Community Justice Agency was truly independent, therefore able to ‘provide strategic leadership, promote best practice and ensure a level of consistency in local service delivery’.
Community Justice Partnerships (CJPs) would be created to commission probation services at a local level, structured around the current 21 community rehabilitation contract areas and governed by a board of relevant criminal justice partners. In some cities there would be ‘larger scope for wider devolution of justice services and a whole system approach’ would be necessary.
Frances Crook, Chief Executive Officer, The Howard League for Penal Reform joins a panel discussion at the Criminal Justice Management Conference on the 19th September 2018.
For direction from Government, including; an overview from the Ministry of Justice on progress regarding Prison and Probation Reform and Youth Justice since the 2016 Prison Safety and Reform White Paper and key next steps, Justin Russell, Director General, Offender Reform and Commissioning Group, MoJ delivers the opening keynote on ‘Prison and Probation Reform – Current Priorities and Future Direction’.
To book a place at this interactive forum, and join the debate around the future of probation services, then visit www.cjm-conference.co.uk/registration while availability lasts.