The future of the Probation Service Contents

2Transforming Rehabilitation and the Probation Reform Programme

Transforming Rehabilitation

9.Transforming Rehabilitation was a major structural reform programme introduced shortly after Chris Grayling MP became Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice in 2012. The programme implemented in 2014–15 introduced fundamental changes to how probation was organised and delivered. The primary change was the division of service delivery into two parts:

10.The programme proved controversial from the beginning.10 Among others, our predecessors identified a number of serious problems in their June 2018 report ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ and concluded: “we are unconvinced that the TR model can ever deliver an effective or viable probation service”.11 Three years on, that judgment has been entirely justified.

11.In July 2018, the then Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, David Gauke announced that the MOJ would end the CRC contracts in 2020, some 14 months early, and following the collapse of some CRC providers who had had lower activity levels, and therefore lower payments, than they had expected and some of whose performance the Public Accounts Committee described as “woeful”.12 The Ministry of Justice announced an additional £22 million a year investment in “through-the-gate” support for offenders when they leave prison, as part of wider changes to contracts to stabilise CRC delivery until the end of 2020 and enable the CRCs to continue to deliver the level of service required before their contracts ceased.13 Mr Gauke, also launched consultation on the future model of probation: ‘Strengthening Probation and Building Confidence’.14

12.In May 2019, the Government announced changes to the delivery model. Most notably, the split between the NPS and CRCs would be reversed, bringing supervision of offenders at all risk levels back under a national probation service.15 Table 1 summarises key events in the development of Transforming Rehabilitation policy.

Table 1: Key Developments in Transforming Rehabilitation Policy 2016–2019



February 2015

Contracts let to Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs)

April 2016

NAO report acknowledges it is early days but identifies “fundamental issues” with the operation of TR.16

March 2017

CRCs project £443 million total forecast losses from 2016–17 to 2021–22. Volumes of activity CRCs are being paid for are well below the levels expected when the contracts were let, while the number of offenders supervised has increased.17

June 2017

MOJ agrees adjustments to CRC contracts, giving total additional projected payments of £342 million over the lifetime of the contracts.18

December 2017

NAO reports on the adjustments to CRC contracts.19

December 2017

HMI Probation report finds “deep-rooted problems”, “most CRCs are struggling”, “questions whether the current model for probation can deliver sufficiently well”20

March 2018

Public Accounts Committee report finds that performance of CRCs “woeful”.21

June 2018

Justice Committee publishes Transforming Rehabilitation report: “The TR reforms had some laudable aims but these reforms have failed to meet them”.22

July 2018

Government announces existing CRC contracts will be cut short to end in December 2020 and that an additional £22m pa will go into Through the Gate services (for resettlement services for offenders leaving custody).23

July 2018- Sep 2018

MOJ consultation on future of transforming rehabilitation- based on the premise that the Department intends to keep the public/ private split with CRCs continuing to supervise low- and medium- risk offenders.24

October 2018

Interim response to Justice Committee report received from MOJ: “we continue to believe that the underlying principles of the TR reforms were sound”.25

Feb- March 2019

Working Links and Interserve plc (CRC providers) go into administration.26

28 March 2019

Report of outgoing HMI Probation: existing probation model is “irredeemably flawed”.27

March 2019

NAO report on Transforming Rehabilitation: “poor value for the taxpayer”.28

3 April 2019

Secretary of State for Justice, David Gauke, tells the Justice Committee that Transforming Rehabilitation had “clearly not delivered in the way we wanted” and that the MOJ is considering the consultation responses (Q33–37).29

3 April 2019

Justice Committee publishes Prison Population 2022: Planning for the future: notes decline in judicial confidence in community sentences due to impact of TR reforms.30

3 May 2019

Public Accounts Committee report on Transforming Rehabilitation: “probation services left underfunded, fragile, and lacking the confidence of the courts”.31

8 May 2019

MOJ Permanent Secretary receives a Ministerial Direction to process payments to Permitted Subcontractors for the losses that they have incurred due to the failure of Working Links and its three CRCs.32

16 May 2019

Government announces new probation system from January 2021 (in England) and by the end of 2019 (in Wales): CRC contracts to end and offender management to be brought under National Probation Service.33

7 June 2019

Full MOJ response to Justice Committee Transforming Rehabilitation report published.34

Source: Various

13.Although the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms have been subject to much criticism, CRC providers have arguably succeeded in bringing necessary innovation. For example CRCs have employed people on probation “a lot more than the public sector traditionally has in terms of either mentors or peer support”.35 CRCs have also introduced “new rehabilitation programmes and some quite sophisticated data tools to see what the needs of offenders are”.36 Many have expressed their desire to hold on to some of the key innovations that have been achieved under transforming rehabilitation and would like to see them continued into the new model.

The new probation reform programme (March 2020)

14.In March 2020, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) published a Draft Target Operating Model for Probation, which set out the latest developments in the design of the future probation model, including the role of the private and voluntary sector in delivering rehabilitative work such as courses and unpaid work.37

15.Under the new model, all responsibility for sentence management will move to the National Probation Service, which will be split into 11 regions across England and one for Wales. A Regional Probation Director will be responsible for delivery and commissioning of probation services in each area.

16.The Ministry of Justice intended to appoint Probation Delivery Partners within each region to deliver unpaid work, accredited programmes and ‘structured interventions’ on emotional management, attitudes, thinking and behaviour and domestic abuse.38 The Ministry also included a Dynamic Framework in the new model, a commissioning mechanism to enable the regional Directors to procure rehabilitation and resettlement interventions. We will further discuss the Dynamic Framework later in this report.39

17.Procurement for Probation Delivery Partner contracts began in December 2019 (pre-qualification stage). Contract notices were issued, and bidders informed whether they had been successful in the pre-qualification phases. Successful bidders were issued with invitations to tender on 6 February 2020 with responses due by 20 March 2020.40

End of Probation Delivery Partner Contracts (June 2020)

18.The next and current Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland QC MP, announced on 11 June 2020 that elements of rehabilitative work (accredited programmes, structured interventions and unpaid work) due to be contracted out would now be brought back under the control of the NPS.41 The competitive process for Probation Delivery partners was subsequently ended. In a Ministerial Statement Mr Buckland said:

[…] I am today setting out changes to streamline the reforms, giving priority to unifying the management of offenders under a single organisation by June next year [June 2021] as planned, while giving us greater flexibility to respond to an uncertain picture across the criminal justice system and beyond.

“Under those revised plans, we will end the competitive process for probation delivery partners. The delivery of unpaid work and behavioural change programmes will instead be brought under the control of the NPS alongside offender supervision when the current CRC contracts end in June next year.42

19.The Lord Chancellor also confirmed that procurement for resettlement services (through a Dynamic Framework - see chapter 4 below) would still go ahead.

20.A number of CRC providers wrote to the Committee to express their discontent at the decision made by the Ministry of Justice to end the competition for the Probation Delivery Partner contracts and told of their limited involvement in the decision-making process. Sodexo,43 told us:

Although the Department will have a different view, there was no meaningful opportunity to represent alternative proposals. It was clear from the point that the PDP [Probation Delivery Partner] bidding process was suspended that the decision to renationalise was a long way down the track. The engagement that followed was completed within a short space of time and had the feel of being taken through a process for the sake of process, the outcome of which was already determined.44

21.Other providers also questioned the rationale behind the decision and how far it was driven by new covid-19 pressures.45 Suki Binning, Chief Executive Officer, Kent, Surrey and Sussex CRC (Seetec), told us:

I struggle to give a narrative to staff around the role that Covid played. What we would have thought would be ideal would be a period of stability, where those who are providing services at the moment—particularly around unpaid work programmes—continue to do that. We are now under huge pressure to deliver a transition plan with the backdrop of a pandemic. That is quite difficult for us.46

22.Lucy Frazer QC MP, then Minister of State for Justice with prime responsibility for implementing the new model, responded on the rationale behind the decision to end Probation Delivery Partner Contracts and the involvement of CRCs:

The position we were in was that we were rolling out the competitions. We had taken the decision that we would contract out that element of probation to the private sector. That was a decision we were absolutely comfortable with and were pursuing, and then the pandemic hit.

We were very conscious of the potentially significant operational impact of Covid and the uncertainty it brought with it in the middle of a big change programme, and the potential economic impacts for the whole country. We had to take a decision very quickly. Did we continue with the contracts we were in the middle of tendering for, or did we change course? We decided that, in the interests of delivering a vital public service, for certainty, the appropriate decision was to change course. In order to deliver by June 2021, we had to take that decision quickly.

We engaged with the CRCs […] but there was a very small window for us to take that decision, given the circumstances in which we found ourselves.47

23.The Minister added that CRC providers may still be able to obtain contracts for some services:

the sort of services they want to provide may fall within the dynamic framework […] There are still contracts on the table of the sort they were pursuing under the current regime. Those contracts are valued at £100 million, so there are some opportunities.48

24.While some providers have been disappointed at the Government’s decision to end Probation Delivery Partner Contracts, non-provider support organisations have largely welcomed the decision, in favour of the more unified service. Clinks, for example (an advisory group to the MOJ), said:

We largely welcome the decision […] The majority of voluntary sector organisations were excluded from competing for the Probation Delivery Partner contracts to deliver accredited programmes and unpaid work as the contract sizes were too large. Delivery by the NPS will help to further simplify the system and reduce the resource and capacity MoJ and HMPPS must commit to contract management and monitoring.49

25.Julia Mulligan, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire, said that covid-19 made the decision necessary but there were already concerns about whether the proposals would work.50 Landworks (which provides work placements for prisoners) also welcomed the decision:

There is no doubt that the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms created a disjointed and complex system that hindered rather than assisted rehabilitation, with confusing accountability, decision making and service delivery responsibilities and there was a risk of elements of that continuing with the proposed probation delivery partners.51

26.A previous Justice Committee said in 2018 that the Transforming Rehabilitation looked unlikely ever to work. Time has proved our predecessors right. We welcome the Government’s decision to reunify the Probation Service and to introduce a new probation reform programme, even if we must acknowledge how unsatisfactory it is that those working in the system must face more organisational change after six years of it and a 12-month period of coping with a pandemic. We thank the CRC providers for their work over the past six years, and recognise the positive work that has been done and the innovation CRCs have brought to the probation service during this time.

The unified model: A lasting solution?

27.In June 2020, the Ministry of Justice published an ‘Update to the Draft Target Operating Model for Probation Services in England and Wales that set out key changes following the announcement that Probation Delivery Contracts had been cancelled.52 The MOJ published the final version in February 2021.53 The key elements are:

28.Given that this is the second major reform programme in the last five years, many have expressed their hope that the new model will be a lasting one.56 Justin Russell, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, told us:

It is the fourth major restructuring in over 20 years […] so it is very important for everyone working in the service that they get some stability going forward.

I do not think structural reform by itself will necessarily bring that stability. It is very important that it is backed up with real resources, strong leadership and the right performance framework. All of those elements have to be in place. Merely shifting boundaries around while changing the structures will not by themselves necessarily bring substantial improvements in quality.57

29.Laura Seebohm, Executive Director, External Affairs, Changing Lives (which works with women on probation), was “very hopeful, in that a national probation service with a very clear remit is more likely to bring together a very integrated and co-ordinated experience for people in the criminal justice system, and should reduce fragmentation.”58 Mat Ilic, Chief Development Officer, Catch 22 (a not-for-profit business that works with offenders and ex-offenders), agreed:

Broadly, structurally, the direction of travel feels much better; some of the commitments seem much more solid, and there is recognition of some of the previous challenges. I suppose it is down particularly to the likes of ourselves, along with other actors, including the National Probation Service more than anyone, to try to build the system from day one … .It has potential to carry much more enduring change, but it will need all sides to work together to try to land some of the changes that have been implemented.59

30.Lucy Frazer QC MP was confident that the new model would be a lasting solution:

It is a major reform and we need to make sure that it works. There are particular reasons why the last reform did not work. When we contracted out to private providers, they were not financially viable contracts. The reason is that we were guessing what was going to come through the system and we got it wrong […]

I think the reason it will work is that we are not planning to do everything on day one. We are planning to make sure that the system stands up on day one, and then learn, reiterate and develop. We are confident that we will have a good, functioning system on day one, but we are even more confident that we will continue to review it and improve it as time goes on.60

31.This is the second major probation reform programme in the last five years. The unplanned-for effect of covid-19 has only added to the challenges the Probation Service faces. The lessons of the previous, failed reforms must be learned, and the new model must provide a lasting solution that allows some stability to a vital and hard-pressed service.

32.As the then Minister of State, Lucy Frazer, acknowledged to us, one reason for the failure of the 2014–15 Transforming Rehabilitation reforms was inaccurate modelling of how much work, and therefore profit, would go to the private sector and third sector organisations allocated more than half the probation system’s overall caseload to administer. The PAC, the NAO and other bodies, including a former Justice Committee, have highlighted how the 2014–15 reforms foundered on being introduced too fast and without sufficient planning or research into their impacts.

33.We welcome the decision to unify the Probation Service once more. We warn, however, that, after the disruption of the past seven years, changes proposed and begun to the probation system must be fully thought through, properly funded and expected to remain in place for a period of decades rather than months or a few years. We seek an assurance from the Ministry of Justice that the new reforms will do so.

34.There is cause for concern in the way that some goalposts have shifted as the new model has been developed. In particular, the decision to seek Probation Delivery Partners while the new model of delivery was still being developed had unfortunate consequences. Its subsequent cancellation caused significant disappointment to those private and third sector organisations whom the Ministry of Justice encouraged to put time and effort into making successful bids only to see the idea scrapped shortly afterwards.

35.The Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland QC MP, highlighted the role of covid-19 in requiring his decision to cancel the Probation Delivery Partner programme, but we must be concerned at any possible echo of a repeat of over-rapid, under-researched reform being introduced, at great cost and inconvenience, and then swiftly reversed when difficulties arise. We recommend that the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice make it clear whether his cancellation of the Probation Delivery Partner programme was a pragmatic decision as a result of the additional pressures raised by the covid-19 outbreak or a decision on principle to bring unpaid work and behavioural change programmes back within a unified national probation service for the long term. In particular, we invite him to confirm whether the Ministry plans to reconsider or revive a Probation Delivery Partner programme once the covid-19 pandemic has been contained.

36.We recommend that the Ministry review its decision to seek partners while the new model was still being developed and to report to us on whether future procurement processes will prevent the cancellation of proposed new contacts at such a late stage in a process and after potential bidders have put considerable time and effort into nugatory bids.

10 See table 1 below

11 Justice Committee, Nineteenth Report of Session 2017–19, Transforming Rehabilitation: Follow-up, HC 2526

14 Ministry of Justice, ‘Strengthening probation, building confidence’ (July 2018)

15 Ministry of Justice, ‘Strengthening probation, building confidence’ (July 2018)

16 National Audit Office, Transforming Rehabilitation, (April 2016), p 10

17 National Audit Office, Investigation into changes to Community Rehabilitation contracts, (December 2017), p 7

18 Ibid

19 Ibid

20 Committee of Public Accounts, Twenty-Seventh Report of Session 2017–19, Government contracts for Community Rehabilitation Companies, HC 897

22 Justice Committee, Ninth Report of Session 2017–19, Transforming Rehabilitation, HC 482

25 Letter from David Gauke MP, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice to Sir Bob Neill, Chair , Justice Committee, Transforming Rehabilitation, October 2018

26 HC Deb, 18 February 2019, HCWS1138 [Commons written ministerial statement]

27 HM Inspectorate of Probation, Report of the Chief Inspector of Probation (March 2019), p 3

28 National Audit Office, Transforming Rehabilitation: Progress review (March 2019), p 10

29 Oral evidence taken before the Justice Committee on 3 April 2019, HC (2019) 2094, Q33–37 [David Gauke]

30 Justice Committee, Sixteenth Report of Session 2017–19, Prison Population 2022: planning for the future, HC 483

31 Committee of Public Accounts, Ninety-Fourth Report of Session 2017–19, Transforming Rehabilitation: progress review, HC 1747

32 Ministry of Justice, ‘Working Links: Ministerial Direction’, 8 May 2019

33 “Justice Secretary announces new model for probation”, Ministry of Justice, 16 May 2019

34 Justice Committee, Eight Special Report of Session 2017–19, Transforming Rehabilitation: Government Response to the Committee’s Ninth Report of Session 2017–19, HC 2309

35 Q169 [Amy Rees]

36 Q4 [Justin Russell]

41 HC Deb, 11 June 2020, Volume 677 [Commons Chamber]

42 HC Deb, 11 June 2020, Volume 677 [Commons Chamber]

43 See also: Seetec (PRO0010); Tom Yates (External Communications Executive at MTC) (PRO0032); Q35 [Adam Hart]

44 Sodexo (PRO0005)

45 See also: Q37 [David Hood]; Q38 [Adam Hart] and [Trevor Shortt]

46 Q36 [Suki Binning]

47 Q174 [Lucy Frazer]

48 Q177 [Lucy Frazer]

49 Clinks (PRO0015)

50 Julia Mulligan (Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire at Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for North Yorkshire) (PRO0007)

51 LandWorks (PRO0011)

54 See Chapter 5 of this report

56 See also: Q70 [Jessica Mullen]

57 Q1 [Justin Russell]

58 Q70 [Laura Seebohm]

59 Q70 [Mat Ilic]

60 Q163 [Lucy Frazer]

Published: 23 April 2021 Site information    Accessibility statement