Probation outsourcing contracts cut short

27 Jul 18

Contracts between probation services and private companies are to be cut short just three years after rehabilitation services were outsourced.

The Ministry of Justice has admitted that Community Rehabilitation Companies have faced “significant challenges” for “numerous and complex” reasons.

In 2015, then justice secretary, Chris Grayling, announced reforms to probation services under the £3.7bn “Transforming Rehabilitation” programme.

This saw 21 CRCs put in charge of managing medium and low-risk cases, while the publicly owned National Probation Service supervised high-risk offenders.

The government claims the programme has led to 40,000 extra offenders a year receiving support and supervision on release.

The companies, whose contracts were due to end in 2022 but will now end in 2020, will receive £170m to “allow CRCs to continue to deliver the level of service required”.

CRCs will receive an extra £22m each year to improve through-the-gate support as prisoners leave jail.

The government has published a consultation to “strengthen the supervision of offenders and increase confidence in the community sentences”.

Its consultation document stated: “In a number of areas the quality of probation services being delivered is falling short of our expectations.

“The reasons for this are numerous and complex, and have been compounded by the financial challenges facing CRCs following unforeseen changes in the volume and types of cases coming to court, and changes in the frequency of reoffending which took place prior to CRCs taking responsibility for services.”

David Gauke, justice secretary, said: “I am determined to have a probation service that protects the public, commands the confidence of the courts, and ultimately reduces reoffending.

“So we are taking decisive action now to improve the delivery of probation services in England and Wales.”

Under proposals announced today, the government wants to realign the responsibilities of CRCs and the NPS and strengthen ties with local authorities and the third sector.

In Wales, all offenders will be managed by the NPS when the contracts end in 2020.

Shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon said: “This ideological experiment has been a costly failure.”

George Georgiou, a national officer of the GMB union whose members include prison officers, said: “The existing system of outsourcing, just as in the NHS, in prisons, on the railways, does not serve the public interest – it serves the shareholder at the expense of the taxpayer.”  

A justice select committee report earlier this month said: “We are unconvinced that the TR model can ever deliver an effective or viable probation service.”

The latest announcement follows a trend of returning outsourced services to state control, after the government committed to bringing the East Coast Main Line back into public hands.  

In June, minister for the cabinet office, David Lidington reaffirmed the government’s commitment to outsourcing.

Did you enjoy this article?