1.In May 2019, the Government announced wholesale changes to the model for delivering probation. Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) will no longer exist after 2019 in Wales and Spring 2021 in England. All offenders will be managed by the National Probation Service (NPS), which will contract out non-core rehabilitative work, such as courses and unpaid work, to the voluntary and private sector.
2.We support these changes, which are long overdue. Last year we published a report which found that the Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) reforms were a mess. We found many serious problems: for example, support from custody into the community was wholly inadequate; magistrates were losing confidence in supervision; CRC performance in reducing reoffending was disappointing; the voluntary sector was less involved than it had been before; and probation staff morale was at an all-time low. Failures in commissioning, especially the botched payment by results model, meant that services were underfunded and financial bail-outs were required to keep the system going. We were unconvinced that the Transforming Rehabilitation model could ever deliver an effective or viable probation service.
3.We are disappointed that the Government did not act more quickly to correct what was increasingly obviously a mistaken reform. Our report on TR was published in June 2018. The MOJ launched a consultation about probation the next month, but this was not the fundamental review—comparing TR with alternative models—for which we had called. Instead the Department took views on how the existing NPS/CRC model could be improved. We wrote to the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State, Rt Hon David Gauke MP, to express our concern that this was a missed opportunity.
4.In October 2018, we received an interim response to our report, stating that the Government continued to “believe that the underpinning principles of the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms were sound”. This surprised us, given the evidence. We hoped that the Government would take seriously our concern that clear problems required swift resolution. However, it took 11 months before we received a full response to our report.
5.The evidence we received during this time was consistent in its view that the design of TR was, in the words of the HM Inspector of Probation, “irredeemably flawed”. Since September 2018, in inspections of 20 CRCs by the Inspectorate, 15 have been rated “requires improvement”, one “inadequate” and only four “good”. The lowest scores, alarmingly, are for case supervision implementation and delivery, which includes public safety: here, 13 scored “inadequate” and five “requires improvement”. We were particularly concerned about serious safeguarding failings found in the management and supervision of men convicted of sexual offences, as set out in a joint HMI Prison and HMI Probation report in January 2019. The Government should have moved more quickly to address the concerns that we and others were expressing.
6.In this brief follow-up report, we scrutinise the Government’s actions since June 2018, and consider what approach they should take in the coming months and years of transition to another new system. We draw on oral evidence taken from Dame Glenys Stacey (then HM Inspector of Probation) on 14 May 2019, as well as the pre-appointment hearing for her successor (Justin Russell) on 5 March 2019. We also took oral evidence from the responsible Minister, Robert Buckland QC MP, along with three HMPPS officials, on 12 June 2019.
1 Justice Committee, (June 2018)
2 Ministry of Justice, (27 July 2018)
3 Letter from the Chair to Rt Hon David Gauke MP, (13 September 2018)
4 Letter to the Chair from Rt Hon David Gauke MP, (October 2018)
5 Figures correct as at 11 July 2019. Includes Wales division of Kent, Surrey and Sussex CRC , which received a dedicated report and ratings
6 A further two were rated “good”
7 HMI Prisons and HMI Probation, (January 2019)
8 Jim Barton, Director and Senior Responsible Owner, Probation Reform Programme; Sonia Crozier, Chief Probation Officer; Amy Rees, Director General for Probation and HMPPS Wales
Published: 19 July 2019