In its haste to rush through its reforms at breakneck speed the Ministry of Justice not only failed to deliver its ‘rehabilitation revolution’ but left probation services underfunded, fragile, and lacking the confidence of the courts. Inexcusably, probation services have been left in a worse position than they were in before the Ministry embarked on its reforms. The Ministry accepts that many aspects of its reforms have not worked, and that services have suffered as a result. Its design of the reforms left Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) too dependent on volumes of work which did not materialise and their exposure to payment by results worsened the subsequent financial pressure. CRCs had insufficient income to cover the cost of basic, good quality probation services, leaving them unable to deliver the innovation promised and vulnerable to outright failure. The Ministry’s attempt to stabilise the contracts, and its decision to terminate them in December 2020—14 months early—will cost the taxpayer an additional £467 million. Mismanagement, risk taking and the lack of properly considered planning has badly let down offenders and there has been no noticeable improvement in the support offered to offenders since these reforms were first implemented, and they have failed to reduce reoffending by as much as expected, with the average number of reoffences committed by each reoffender actually increasing. Through the Gate (TTG) services fail to address needs like stable and suitable accommodation and, in some cases, offenders have been provided with tents and left with no fixed address on release from prison. This will ultimately cost the taxpayer more as costs are shunted elsewhere in the system. The Ministry says it has learned lessons, but it now needs to show that it is putting them into practice and urgently making desperately needed improvements to probation services.
Published: 3 May 2019