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I wonder whether the Minister agrees that the community-based rehabilitation service that the Probation Service is has a much wider function than supervising individuals. I am a little concerned about what she said earlier, and I am sure that she will put me right. Does she agree that it has functions in relation to the courts and to public confidence and a role in looking for volunteers, getting the public involved and being seen out in neighbourhoods and the streets? Does she agree that it should be well represented in the poorest communities and should play a part in trying to build social cohesion there, and that it should be in prisons carrying out a resettlement and welfare role? Those are the implications of the amendment. I would like to understand a little better where the Minister is coming from in her view on this. Is the intention of the Bill to turn the Probation Service into an “offender management service”, as she said earlier, in which individuals are allocated someone who will work with them from one point in their lives to a later point? That would be a fundamental change in the Probation Service as we have known it. Or does the Minister see the wider role of the Probation Service as more along the lines of the amendment?

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Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, because he has taken forward our debate on the issue of “purposes” in Clause 1. We have tabled a further amendment to Clause 1(1), but Amendment No. 5 very effectively rounds off the debate on the principles underlying the purposes. He has put the list in a different order of priority; I am not trying to apportion priority, so that will remain a difference of view.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, that there is a danger of fallibility in lists, because something else could always be added to them. That is why Governments are always reluctant to accept lists when Oppositions try to put them in. Here, the Government are trying to be helpful by including a list, and have found themselves on the receiving end of all of us saying, “Yes, but what if?”, and, “Could we not put this in?”. Noble Lords have been helpful on this amendment, because the Minister will wish to take this away and perhaps look more carefully at how this list may be drafted and what is included.

I share the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, that paragraph (a) in Amendment No. 5 may aim, intentionally or unintentionally, to exclude contestability from the working of the Bill. I shall keep my powder dry on partnership versus contestability, because I had intended to argue my case on Amendment No. 15, in relation to “Duty to co-operate”, and it would be wrong to repeat myself. I will try to hold back tonight. I have made it clear that I am in favour of trying to give contestability a go.

I may diverge from the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, in that I much prefer local control. It is a question of how we achieve that while retaining back-stop powers for the Secretary of State. I will listen to her arguments about the difficulties of commissioning and whether it is a small or large organisation. We will look at the various aspects of that.

Paragraph (a), while meaning well in trying to address the reduction of crime as a priority, perhaps carries within it, in its reference to “working in partnership”, something with which I could not go along. We will deal with that in detail later. By including “the reduction of crime” in the list, does the noble Lord intend the probation purposes to cover those who have not yet committed any offence? That is the implication, and it may be a drafting matter. I do not think that he means that the purposes of the providers of probation services should include those who have not yet committed a crime. There may need to be befriending or mentoring from resources—perhaps at schools or in other ways—but not necessarily through probation.

I was interested to see the inclusion in paragraph (d) of the words,

so that the provision now says:

I seek an assurance from the Minister that these people are already included by definition in paragraph (c). If so, I would not support the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, in his extension of paragraph (c). This is an important amendment which rounds off a day’s debate on the principles that underlie the Bill. After this, the dam will break and we will be able to move forward rapidly on more concentrated issues.

Lord Northbourne: I wish to make two brief points on the amendment. The first relates to paragraph (d) on supervision and rehabilitation. In the debate before the dinner break, we learnt that the Government are putting in place a very effective system for end-to-end management but that the introduction of mentoring—some sort of relationship involving advice, help or support—is probably some way off in the future. It is worth distinguishing between the two.

My second point concerns a matter raised made by the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. I love the reference to “the reduction of crime” because it would of course include a reduction in the causes of crime. I am concerned that the Bill is entirely predicated on the prevention of reoffending when, in fact, the best way to prevent reoffending may be to prevent offending in the first place.

Baroness Linklater of Butterstone: I support the amendment and agree entirely with what the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, has just said. I understand the thinking behind what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, is trying to do in reordering the paragraphs, as there may be a more logical sequence to the list, but I also hear very clearly what the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, says. It is not so much a question of whether the list is inclusive or exclusive; the point is that it may become a straitjacket and a kind of job description. That is the risk you always run when you try to tease out all the crucial elements which you do not want to miss. I do not know whether there is a straightforward answer to that, but the issue is fraught with that kind of hazard.

It is absolutely right that the probation purposes should emphasise partnership working, with whomever it may be, and that that should, wherever possible, take place at a local level, because that is where the offender lives. If the pillars of a roof, a relationship and a job, which can be the structure around the work, are met, then there is a context and a more realistic chance of a successful outcome.

The amendment proposes a mixture of some new probation purposes and some which are, as we have already discussed, in the Bill. Paragraph (d) is significant because it introduces the element to which I referred earlier and which is palpably absent from the Bill—the place of prison in offender management and, in particular, the role of the Probation Service when offenders are released. Not including prison in the plans for resettlement makes a nonsense of the notion of end-to-end management. Therefore, we welcome that addition as being essential in the planning of supervision and rehabilitation purposes.

Paragraph (f) in the amendment is also new. It is helpful in that it highlights the issue of compliance with court orders and clearly reflects our earlier discussion on the role of probation vis- -vis the court. Probation’s task is to use all the available skills and professional expertise to carry out the orders of the court and ensure compliance and then to return to court if they are not adhered to. Achieving compliance is the one measure of success in probation work and it should be clearly stated as an objective.

The core value of a belief in the ability of people to change is inherent in the aims of probation. Therefore, it is right that the aims are restated in this logical way.

Finally, the inclusion of offenders’ awareness of crime brings in, for the first time, the possibility of restorative justice being more embedded, expanded and developed within the context of offender management.

Lord Hylton: I agree with my noble friend Lord Northbourne, who mentioned the important matter of mentoring. I should like to ask the Minister how many Probation Service volunteers there now are in England and Wales and whether she foresees their number increasing under the Bill and under the new dispensation. It is a very valuable resource; it should not be lost but should be improved on.

The Earl of Listowel: It would be helpful to hear in more detail from the Minister how the end-to-end offender management will work. My noble friend Lord Northbourne reminded us of a little bit of what we have learnt, which spurred me to think about the relationship between prison officers and the offender managers—normally probation officers. I have noticed in other circumstances where there is a need for close partnership—for instance between children’s homes and schools, children’s home staff and schools, or children’s home staff and social workers—that when there is a great disparity in the professional development and qualifications between the two partners, it is much more difficult to work together. Staff in children’s homes say, “Teachers don’t respect us”, and teachers say, “Children’s home staff don’t know anything. We can’t deal with them”. There is a danger of mutual recrimination unless there is a fair degree of parity of professionalism between the two.

Has the Minister’s department considered whether further development of prison officers might be in order to take them closer to the degree-level qualification of probation officers? I understand that there has been some progress in such development of prison officers recently and it would be interesting to hear more of that if the Minister has time.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I have found the discussion around this amendment and clauses extremely useful and I take the point about lists to which others have referred. Equally, we are all waiting to hear the Minister’s reasons for accepting or not accepting an extension of the list. Above all, I, too, emphasise the point made by my noble friend Lord Northbourne about the ability—perhaps we are now somewhere near it—to prevent offences. We need to concentrate on that much more as a group at local level among all the social services as well as the voluntary sector. I very much look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We have had a very interesting debate. As we have seen already from our discussion, Clause 1 sets out the various purposes that govern the probation services that are to be provided under the rest of Part 1 of the Bill. I remind the Committee that they are essentially the same as the current ones, set out in Section 1 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000. The way in which they are interpreted is very well understood. They have been used for the past seven years.

We have before us a range of suggestions on how the list might be improved. Of course, I am sympathetic to many of the points made. However, I do not consider any of the activities that have been mentioned not to be the proper business of the Probation Service. They are all things that the service can do. Our debate reminded us, if such reminding were needed, of the wide range of activities in which the Probation Service is engaged throughout the criminal justice process. The question is whether additional explicit provision on the face of the Bill is required, or whether these activities are adequately covered by what is already there. All the things alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, are already part of the framework of what the Probation Service does.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, that by explaining how offender management will work I do not seek in any way to diminish the other important parts of probation work. I think that the noble Baroness neglected to mention another group of people with whom it is extremely important for the Probation Service to work: the victims. It works not just with offenders but with victims. That part of its work should continue. When considering what we need to do to reduce offending and reoffending, which is the focus and the part which the Probation Service plays, we must ensure that it properly concentrates on those issues. I remind the Committee that the Probation Service is a partner in the local strategic partnerships. It will play a part in the crime and disorder reduction partnerships. It plays a part in the local criminal justice boards, which some chief probation officers chair. It has gone right to the centre of the criminal justice system. In the past, it was often seen as a bit of a Cinderella on the edges. Now the Probation Service sometimes drives change and welds the criminal justice system together, an important cultural shift that has rightly happened in the past few years.

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I remind the Committee that the role of offender management gives the managers a more important role. They will be working very much on a par with their Prison Service colleagues, and they will be very much in control of the direction of the care of that offender, notwithstanding that the offender will perhaps be housed in the prison system for a significant time. All significant sentences will be served partly in the community and partly in prison, and the nexus between the two is absolutely critical in getting the sort of improvements we need.

Baroness Stern: I thank the noble Baroness for what she has just said, which is what I thought she would say. I was hoping to hear it, so I am very happy. However, does she accept that, for those people who have not heard about it, calling a bit of the Ministry of Justice the National Offender Management Service is extremely confusing? What she has just said describes a set of activities that could in no way be called a national offender management service but are, rather, the activities of a probation service, described in a way that I heartily endorse.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I thank the noble Baroness, but I must remind her that the Probation Service is only one part of the National Offender Management Service. The other part deals with prisons, and the conjoining of those two services is important. If we are to have a seamless provision, end to end, we must encapsulate both services.

When the Probation Service advises the court—which it will still do under the Bill—it is important that it gives the court advice as to what the sentence plan should be. Can the offender be safely managed in the community? Under the 2003 criteria, can they be properly punished and rehabilitated? Can proper reparation be made in the community in a way that is meaningful for the victim and the offender? Or is it a case in which, because of the nature, history and pattern of behaviour of the offender, the court must take the view that imprisonment is the only appropriate sanction, confident that a period of time will be spent in prison and a period of time in the community?

When the probation officer makes that report, he or she must advise the court how the community part will be managed. Is there a necessity for an educational part, because there must be a skills assessment? Is there a health issue with drugs, or other matters that must be dealt with? When that person comes out, what about accommodation? All those matters must be considered in a sentence plan, which must be put before the court in the sentencing advice that it will be given. If the court must sentence in accordance with the principles laid down in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, all those factors must be taken into account. It is appropriate that the National Offender Management Service should be so described because it conjoins probation and imprisonment and accepts the reality that the offender faces: he or she will spend part of their time in prison and part in the community.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, that it is difficult to provide a list that seeks to delineate every single dot and tittle with which the person will have to comply. If we do that, I fear that we will make a rod for the back of the service and stifle innovation. As noble Lords have said, such a list would become the job description and we would incarcerate the service’s innovation in a way that none of us would like.

Lord Northbourne: Surely Clause 1 does precisely that: by listing six activities, it excludes all others. That is normally the law, but perhaps it is not in this case.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: I do not think that it is. We must look at our experience since 2000. That is why I highlight the fact that we have preserved in the Bill the criteria expressed then. We know from experience how that has been interpreted, and we are all content with how it has operated. It has not impeded the development of services or activities; indeed, many have praised how it is dealt with. We can therefore have a certain degree of confidence that it will not be misunderstood.

The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, asked about how prison governors would work, the relationship with trusts and whether there would be a fragmented approach. It is critical that we do not have a fragmented approach. If I can take up the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, we must commission according to need. The whole point is to assess what offenders and victims—we must remember that it is not just offenders—need in an area and to commission appropriately. It is likely that the majority of services will be commissioned by local trusts because they will be the most knowledgeable about the needs.

The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, referred to other services that may be more efficaciously commissioned on a regional basis. That applies to certain specialist services. To take the example given by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, of services for sex offenders, we are fortunate not to have such a body of sexual offending in every area that each needs a specialist service. We therefore need to collocate relevant services on a regional basis to provide as efficaciously as possible easy access for those who need it. It makes sense to commission such services more regionally.

Other services, because of their specific nature, may have to be commissioned nationally. However, the local flavour is critical. We expect that the majority of commissioning will be done locally. A commissioner will contract with the local trust, which will then co-partner. I do not think that commissioning and partnership are contradictory terms because we intend commissioning to focus on need, and we know from our analysis that, if you follow need, it leads you to work in partnership with public, not-for-profit and private bodies. That configuration delivers the appropriate service to match needs. It is already being looked at in the best areas.

As this is likely to be our last general exposition, I wish to give examples of regional contracts. In the east of England, a commissioning pathfinder was established in 2006 with Serco, Turning Point and Rainer to reduce reoffending by increasing the take-up of sustainable employment by offenders. Initially, the projects focused on Luton, Southend and Bury St Edmunds, where key workers were given individualised support to motivate, mentor and prepare offenders for work. Key workers engage with employers to boost confidence in offering work to offenders. The project runs until 2009 and aims to place 460 additional offenders into employment each year. That is an example of services coming together to meet identified needs.

The point about volunteers made by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, is absolutely right. Volunteers working as mentors can have a fundamental impact on offenders. They can walk with the offender at a time when the public service and the not-for-profit service may not be available so to do. We want to enhance that work. Part of it will be driven through the work we are doing on the alliances, but also through the work we are doing through the reducing reoffending boards. We absolutely understand that it is not just the public services that must do this work; we have to brigade communities generally and help better to inform them so that they can help us better to address some of these problems and bring about the change. There is an opportunity for us to do that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, talked about the prevention of offences. We will be working in partnership with other government departments, including the Home Office. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, is right that the Home Office remains responsible for crime reduction, crime prevention and the crime strategy. The Home Office will continue its work with CDRPs, local strategic partnerships, schools, health authorities and all the others to prevent crime. The Home Office will be working very closely indeed with the Ministry of Justice.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, that when I stand at this Dispatch Box, I speak on behalf of the whole Government, not one department. Therefore, I can assure him that these issues will be raised. They have been raised; the Ministry of Justice has looked at these issues, and we will look at them again. They are very important.

The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, proposes a number of additions. The most significant is perhaps the reduction of crime through working in partnership with appropriate public, private and voluntary sector organisations at a local level. As I hope I have made clear, this is an important part of probation activity. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 requires probation boards to co-operate with local authorities, the police and others on the formulation and implementation of strategies for the reduction of crime and disorder. Those responsibilities will be carried forward into the new world. We will ensure that providers of probation services continue to contribute to the crime and disorder reduction partnerships, as boards do now. In addition, Clause 3(3)(a) makes express provision for contractual arrangements with providers of probation services to require them to co-operate with other providers of probation services or persons who are concerned with the prevention or reduction of crime. One of the key drivers of our proposed reforms is a desire to see much more partnership working than we do now.

It is precisely because we think that probation boards are currently trying to do too much themselves and are making insufficient use of the resources of providers and other sectors that we want the powers in the Bill. We want to use the commissioning powers to encourage trusts to subcontract services to other providers locally so that the public sector Probation Service can concentrate on its strengths. I strongly suspect that the outcome that I envisage is remarkably similar to that which the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has in mind. Where I think we may differ is that I believe that we need more than an amendment to the probation purposes to achieve that. We need a change in the current structures. That is what the rest of the Bill delivers.

The noble Lord also proposes an addition to Clause 1(1)(c) to refer to persons released from prison. I am happy to confirm to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that that is already covered by the subsection as it stands. The noble Lord then proposes making specific reference to compliance with court orders. This is an area in which probation performance has improved beyond recognition in recent years. For example, enforcement action is now taken swiftly in over 90 per cent of cases. However, it is an integral part of the supervision of offenders and does not require separate mention. En passant, I should say that what has happened is that, as enforcement has gone up, so has compliance. That is a very important indicator.


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