‘Bleak future’ for third sector involvement in probation
Third sector and volunteer groups were increasingly reluctant to become involved in the rehabilitation of prisoners in Chris Grayling’s part privatisation of the probation system. According to Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, such organisations were ‘less involved than ever’ in probation. In a new report published today, her inspectors found that new contracts were ‘burdensome, disproportionate and off-putting for all’.
The 2014 Transforming Rehabilitation shake-up created the National Probation Service to deal with high-risk offenders and 21 so-called ‘community rehabilitation companies’ (CRCs) to manage medium and low risk offenders as part of its ‘through the gate’ strategy. CRCs are now responsible for preparing and resettling prisoners by supporting them in their attempts to find housing, manage their money, and secure education, training or employment following their release. The CRC contracts were reckoned to be worth £450m covering some estimated 70% of the service. You read background on CRCSs on the Justice Gap here.
What we do at the moment is send people out of prison with £46 in their pocket, and no support at all. No wonder we have such high levels of reoffending. It is madness to carry on with the same old system and hope for a different result.
The new report notes that Ministry of Justice claimed there would be ‘a wide array of organisations involved in the delivery of probation services’. Inspectors noted that CRC contracts did not require the new companies to commission specialist services from the third sector or from others even where they expressed in bids their intentions to do that. ‘Instead, they contain varied and somewhat vague statements of intent about CRCs developing their supply chains,’ it said.
‘It seems that the third sector is less involved than ever in probation services, despite its best efforts; yet, many under probation supervision need the sector’s specialist help, to turn their lives around,’ commented Dame Glenys. Inspectors found that the National Probation Service was not buying services from CRCs ‘to anywhere near the extent expected’.
‘All CRC owners inspected were concerned about the financial instability and viability of their own contracts with the MoJ,’ they said; adding that their ‘own lack of stability was driving their relationship’ with principal and smaller sub-contractors in the third sector and most were ‘looking for further efficiencies and cutbacks’. Supply chains delivering services within the community were ‘generally small scale, and non-existent in some local areas’ and a ‘noticeable proportion’ of pre-2014 contracts had been axed.
‘It is an exasperating situation,’ commented Dame Stacey. ‘Third-sector providers remain eager to work in the sector, and we found the quality of their work reasonable overall. Many are providing a more expansive service to individuals than they are paid for. Supply chains are thin, however, and set to get thinner still, as CRCs continue to review and slim down provision. There is no open book policy: we cannot be certain to what extent financial pressures justify a paucity of provision, but it seems very likely that they are largely responsible. As things stand, the future looks bleak for some organisations, and particularly for those individuals who could benefit so much from the services they can provide.’