Report published 23 September 2016. Government response published 19 December 2016.
Reforms by the Ministry of Justice to transform the rehabilitation of offenders have successfully restructured the probation landscape within ministerial timescales and without major disruption to services, but operational problems and risks to further service transformation need to be resolved, according to the National Audit Office (NAO) in a report published on the 28 April 2016.
Probation services were divided in 2014 into a public sector National Probation Service (NPS) and 21 new Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) owned since February 2015 by 8, primarily private, providers. The NPS advises courts on sentencing all offenders and manages those presenting higher risk of serious harm, while CRCs supervise offenders presenting a low and medium risk of harm.
National Audit Office report
The NAO report found that probation services have been sustained throughout a period of major change, with 77% of service users surveyed reporting that they had not noticed any change in the overall service they had personally received.
Service users were most dissatisfied in obtaining help with housing, help with finding employment and having to repeat information to different people; aspects influenced in part by factors outside the control of probation services.
The different organisations established in the reforms have different incentives, with unsurprising frictions between working level staff at the NPS and CRCs. Many junior staff at CRCs told the NAO that they considered their NPS contacts to be unduly critical and dismissive, while their NPS counterparts thought CRC contacts were often not providing them with necessary information and had become too focused on commercial interests.