Probation services are designed to protect the public and reduce reoffending by supervising offenders in the community, overseeing their rehabilitation and ensuring that they understand the impact of their crimes on victims. The Ministry of Justice (the Ministry), through HM Prison & Probation Service (HMPPS), is responsible for probation services in England and Wales. As at September 2018, 257,000 offenders were supervised by probation services. In 2013, the Ministry embarked on a major reform of probation services to deliver a ‘rehabilitation revolution’. It created 21 privately owned Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) to manage low- and medium-risk offenders and the public sector National Probation Service (NPS) to manage those posing higher risks. CRC owners took over in 2015, but as early as 2017 the Ministry had to amend its contracts with CRCs to increase their income and stabilise failing services. In July 2018 the Ministry announced it would terminate its contracts with CRCs 14 months early, in December 2020. In February 2019, Working Links, the owner of three CRCs, went into administration followed by Interserve, the owner of five CRCs, which went into administration in March 2019. The Ministry has consulted on its future model for probation, but it has not yet made decisions about what will replace the current failing system. This project has been beset by major difficulties from its outset and whilst we appreciate the Ministry’s acknowledgement that it was wrong to set its original timescale, it remains to be seen how it will manage to minimise additional costs while at the same time delivering a radically redesigned reform programme. We are also very concerned about the impact of the failures of the Through the Gate (TTG) services on both offenders and victims. TTG services were intended to provide support and minimise the risk of reoffending by helping offenders to find employment and stable accommodation as well as helping with financial and emotional support. However, TTG services have consistently failed to deliver or meet required quality standards. Offenders have been let down by a lack of understanding in how to offer tailored support, poor staff training, a focus on meeting targets rather than specific needs and an unacceptable failure in providing stable and suitable accommodation.
Published: 3 May 2019