The government will reverse the disastrous part-privatisation of the probation service. Supervision of all offenders on licence and serving community sentences in will come back under public control from next year. The publicly run National Probation Service (NPS) will take over management of low and medium-risk cases which are currently handled by private community rehabilitation companies (CRCs).
Under the then justice secretary Chris Grayling’s much trumpeted ‘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. The proposals were rolled out in 2013 without being piloted and in face of united opposition from probation workers. In 2017, HM Inspectorate of Probation found that CRCs were failing to properly assess risk of harm in half of cases. There was a scathing report from the National Audit Office in March last year (shortly after Working Links, the CRC responsible for probation in Wales and the south-west, went bust). The spending watchdog said the reforms were ‘set up to fail’ and reported that the number of offenders returned to prison had ‘skyrocketed’ and predicted that the government would pay at least £467 million more than required under the original contracts.
‘The delivery of unpaid work, behavioural change programmes will be brought under control of the NPS alongside offender supervision when current CRC contracts end in June next year,’ the justice secretary Robert Buckland told the House of Commons. ‘This will give us a critical measure of control, resilience and flexibility with these services which we would not have had were they delivered under 12 contracts with a number of organisations.’
In the Commons, Justice Secretary Robert Buckland confirmed the plans to reverse the part-privatisation introduced by his predecessor Chris Grayling in 2014.
Labour’s shadow justice secretary David Lammy called the decision a ‘U-turn’ and said it was ‘such a shame’ Grayling was not in the House of Commons for the announcement. ‘Since the reforms reoffending rates have climbed up to 32%, that is members of the public, victims across the country, who have been subject to offenders and to crime that would not have been subject to the trauma that they were put through had this privatisation not been brought in in the first place.’
Probation union Napo general secretary Ian Lawrence said members would be ‘breathing a huge sign of relief’.