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Statement on reforms to probation services in England and Wales

11 June 2020

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Justice Secretary, Robert Buckland made a statement to the House of Commons on reforms to probation services in England and Wales.

Robert Buckland: "Covid-19 does not change our ambition to cut crime"

Robert Buckland, Secretary of State for Justice, told the House that "Covid-19 also presents an ongoing challenge to implementation of our ambitious programme of probation reform".

He said that probation services are currently split between the National Probation Service (NPS), supervising high risk offenders and, private sector Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) supervising low and medium risk offenders.

The unified model that the Government proposed last year for probation delivery "will ensure" that the Government makes "the best use of the talents and skills in the public, private and voluntary sectors", Robert says.

He went on to say:

"A unified model means responsibility for the supervision of all offenders transfer to the NPS, while each NPS region will have a private sector partner—a probation delivery partner—responsible for providing unpaid work placements and behavioural change programmes."

Mr Buckland said that "Covid-19 does not change our ambition to cut crime, to keep the public safe and to tackle reoffending so that fewer people become victims of crime".

The Justice Secretary told the House:

"Given the significant operational impact that covid-19 has already had and the uncertainty it brings for the future, it is right that we should reassess our plans.

"The disruption caused by covid-19 makes delivery of other parts of our plans considerably more complex, and looking ahead, it is vital for public and judicial confidence that we have the flexibility to deliver a national response to any future challenges that covid-19 presents."

He says that the revised plans will:

  • "end the competitive process for probation delivery partners"
  • "retain a dynamic framework for specialist rehabilitative services, but we must take account of the pressures that the market is currently facing"
  • "make the best use of the talents and skills in the public, private and voluntary sectors"

 He concluded:

"I am confident that the changes I have set out represent the most sustainable approach for probation to deliver justice and to cut crime in the face of an unprecedented crisis."

David Lammy: "It is a U-turn that we have called for for many years"

David Lammy, Shadow Secretary of State for Justice responded to the statement, saying "the Opposition welcome the U-turn that the Government are announcing. It is a U-turn that we have called for for many years".

He said that "every Member of Parliament knows that a properly run probation system is essential."

"At its best, it can be the national service of second chances: offenders rehabilitate, former criminals become good citizens and people are allowed to make up for their past mistakes.", Mr Lammy told the House.

The Conservative Government's part-privatisation of the probation service "was the deepest privatisation that the criminal justice system has ever experienced, it transferred 70% of the work done by the public probation service to private and voluntary sector providers."

As a result, "reoffending rates have climbed up to 32%".

Mr Lammy said that the Government was warned about the dangers of the part-privatisation in probation services by the Labour Party, Trade Unions and the Chief Inspector.

David Lammy said:

"One service provider, Working Links, was found to be wrongly classifying offenders as low risk to meet Government targets. Profit was put before public safety."

Image: PA

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