Transforming Rehabilitation Contents


Probation in England and Wales

1.Individuals are on probation either because they are serving a community sentence, or because they have been released from custody. While on probation, an individual might have to:

Probation is a devolved matter in Scotland and Northern Ireland, therefore this Report focusses on adult probation services in England and Wales.2

2.At the end of December 2017, the total probation caseload (male and female) in England and Wales was 264,649.3 Information released by the Ministry of Justice in its Quarterly Offender Management Statistics Bulletin for October to December 2017 included details of the distribution of the type of probation support those 264,649 individuals were receiving:

Source: Ministry of Justice, Offender Management Statistics Bulletin, England and Wales, Quarterly October to December 2017, 26 April 2018, p10

3.We consider that probation is a vital service and one that needs to be delivered successfully. According to HM Inspectorate of Probation, “Probation services can make a big difference to those receiving them and to wider society”.4 The Inspectorate also said in its Annual Report for 2017 that if probation was delivered well “there would be less reoffending and fewer people being returned repeatedly to prison”. During our inquiry we heard first-hand from probation users about the power of probation: it “gives you hope and support that you can do something, with the sentence and conviction behind you. Someone is there to help you. You are not just crossed off and then left to suffer the consequences of having done something”.5

Transforming Rehabilitation reforms

4.Between 9 January and 22 February 2013, the then UK Government ran a consultation on reforms to the delivery of probation.6 The then Government published on 9 May 2013 its response to the consultation, Transforming Rehabilitation: A Strategy for Reform.7 An overview of the changes introduced under the Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) reforms is set out in Chapter Two.

5.The then Justice Committee published a Report in January 2014 highlighting many potential problems with the proposed reforms.8 These concerns were also raised by stakeholders and practitioners in the sector.9

6.Since the implementation of the TR reforms more reports have been published which have focussed on or touched upon problems with TR. For example, the Committee of Public Accounts published a Report in September 2016 on TR.10 It raised concerns relating to:

7.Problems were also identified in joint reports from HM Inspectorates of Probation and Prisons on Through the Gate services, and reports from the National Audit Office, the then Work and Pensions Committee in its Report on support for ex-offenders, and the then Communities and Local Government Committee in its Report on homelessness, which highlighted specific issues relating to housing for those on probation.11 At the beginning of this Parliament we agreed that in light of these reports, the generally poor reports from the Inspectorate (both inspection reports of specific Community Rehabilitation Companies and National Probation Service areas as well as cross-cutting thematic reports) and oral evidence taken by our predecessor Committee in March 2017, that an inquiry into Transforming Rehabilitation would be one of the first inquiries that we launched in the 2017 Parliament.12

Our inquiry

8.We launched a call for evidence seeking written submissions to our inquiry into Transforming Rehabilitation on 12 October 2017.13 We held four evidence sessions as part of our inquiry and went on a one-day visit:

9.Over 100 pieces of written evidence were received as part of this inquiry from a wide range of individuals and organisations, including experts in the field, public organisations and individuals involved in the criminal justice sector, providers of probation services, the voluntary and charity sector, staff and former staff from the probation sector and academics. The evidence (oral and written) that we received can be found on our website.14

10.Our predecessor Committee in the last Parliament held two oral evidence sessions on Transforming Rehabilitation (at Annex One is a summary of the concerns it heard and which we used to inform our inquiry):

We thank all those who gave oral and written evidence to our inquiry and that of our predecessor Committee.

Aims of this Report

11.We have heard about many problems facing the probation sector. Our focus, in this inquiry, was on looking for short and medium-term solutions to those problems and best practice for the current system and any future probation system. It was not possible to explore every issue facing the sector and there were some challenges that we decided to not consider at the outset of our inquiry. For instance, we did not look at probation and women (c.10% of the probation caseload),15 as we expected the Ministry of Justice to produce a women’s strategy.16 After we had concluded taking evidence, reports surfaced that there had been further delays to Ministers agreeing a women’s strategy.17 On 5 June 2018 the Secretary of State announced that the strategy would be published “in the near future”.18 We hope that it appears soon. When the women’s strategy is published we will review it.

12.In this Report:

We consider that decisive action is needed on a number of specific areas. At Annex Two we therefore set out a timeline showing which actions we think the Ministry must take over the next year, and by when.

1, ‘Probation’, accessed 25 May 2018

2 Young people who receive community sentences are supervised by Youth Offending Teams.

4 HM Inspectorate of Probation, 2017 Annual Report, 14 December 2017, p5

5 Q51

7 Ministry of Justice, Transforming Rehabilitation: A Strategy for Reform, Cm 8619, May 2013

9 See for example, written evidence submitted to our predecessor Committee’s inquiry in Session 2013–14, “Probation Privatisation Flawed and Dangerous”, Napo, 9 March 2014, Centre for Crime and Justice Studies blog by Professor Paul Senior, “Risky and fundamentally misguided”, 24 September 2013 and Prison Reform Trust, Briefing for Opposition Day Debate on the Future of the Probation Service, 30 October 2013.

10 Committee of Public Accounts, Seventeenth Report of Session 2016–17, Transforming Rehabilitation, HC 484

11 See for example: National Audit Office, Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General: Ministry of Justice: Transforming Rehabilitation, HC 951, April 2016, Criminal Justice Joint Inspection, A joint inspection by HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons, An Inspection of Through the Gate Resettlement Services for Short-Term Prisoners, October 2016, Criminal Justice Joint Inspection, A joint inspection by HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons, An Inspection of Through the Gate Resettlement Services for Prisoners Serving 12 Months or More, June 2017, Communities and Local Government Committee, Third Report of Session 2016–17, Homelessness, HC 40, and Work and Pensions Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2016–17, Support for ex-offenders, HC 58.

12 Evidence was taken by our predecessor on 21 and 28 March 2017 from providers, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, charities and others on the issues facing the probation sector (further details are provided at paragraph 10 and Annex One).

13 The terms of reference for the Committee’s inquiry can be viewed on the Committee’s website.

15 At the end of December 2017 there were 26,677 women being supervised by probation services (c.10% of the probation caseload).

16 The Prison Safety and Reform White Paper, published in November 2016, stated that such a strategy would be published in early 2017.

17 See for example: “MoJ postpones plans to reduce female prison population”, The Guardian, 2 May 2018

18 HC Deb, 5 June 2018, col 148

Published: 22 June 2018