Plans to renationalise the Probation Service would ‘not be without its challenges’, warned the watchdog. In response to the Ministry of Justice’s plans to bring the service back under complete public control. Justin Russell, the Chief Inspector of Probation, said there was ‘no magic bullet’ and insisted that such changes needed to be met with long-term investment in order to be successful.
Back in 2014 under the then justice secretary Chris Grayling’s ‘rehabilitation revolution’, the MoJ created 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) in 2013 to manage low or medium risk offenders and the National Probation Service (NPS) to manage those posing higher risks. At the time, the watchdog described the overhaul as ‘fundamentally flawed’ as Grayling ignored warnings and pushed on with his a controversial reforms in the face of opposition of the entire sector.
‘There are no magic bullets here: structural change needs to be backed by sustained investment for there to be true improvement. Real transformation is a long-term commitment, and unification is just the beginning of that journey.’
Justin Russell, the Chief Inspector of Probation
The MoJ yesterday promised a ‘newly-unified’ probation service. ‘More than £300 million worth of extra funding has been pumped into the service since July 2019,’ explained the ministry. The funding was ‘helping to more than double the recruitment of probation officers, from the usual annual intake of 600 trainee probation officers to 1,000 last year with plans to recruit a record 1,500 this financial year’. This would mean staff ‘can keep a closer eye on the most dangerous offenders and ensure many more take up the opportunity to reform their criminal ways’.
‘Unifying the service will ensure there is better and more consistent supervision of offenders and closer working with the police, NHS and local authorities,’ the MoJ said.
‘The work probation does to protect the public from harm and rehabilitate offenders is too often overlooked but it is vitally important given 80% of crime is reoffending,’ said the Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland MP QC.
Justin Russell, the Chief Inspector of Probation warned that as a result of ‘relentless pressure and unacceptably high caseloads’, the quality of supervision has been reduced with over half of the cases in the private sector being deemed ‘unsatisfactory’. ‘Structural change needs to be backed by sustained investment for there be true improvement,’ he said.