Wednesday, 9 January 2013

A Grown Up Discussion

So, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling wants to have a 'grown up discussion' about his barking mad idea to privatise the bulk of probation work in order to reduce reoffending, save money and better protect the public.A full 5 weeks have been felt sufficient for this to happen, but I think most people will require a great deal less time in order to spot the potential pitfalls in such a crazy idea.

I notice that the Labour Party have been quick to label the plans as a 'reckless gamble' but of course they set the whole shambolic treatment of probation in train long ago with the Carter Review. For a short and concise description of the background to the present situation we find ourselves in, I suggest this post written in 2009 is as good as any. The fact is that probation has been treated as a political football by both main parties for years and neither can be trusted to talk any sense on the subject at all. 

So what is it exactly that Chris Grayling is proposing? In essence he wants to entrust the supervision of medium and low risk offenders to private security companies and charitable groups and pay them according to how successful they are in preventing reoffending. This is the new magic bullet called 'Payment by Results' - an idea that still remains largely untried and untested, but will nevertheless be rolled out despite clear recent evidence of fraud and fiddling in the 'welfare to work' sector. 

This article from the Guardian last May and written by Geoff Dobson a former probation chief explains what other problems will flow from this proposal. I note that Liz Calderbank, HM Chief Inspector of Probation was quick off the mark this morning on BBC radio 4's Today Programme in raising concerns and we can no doubt expect NAPO to be weighing in shortly. 

In order to be balanced I had better say that the only good news in all this is the decision to make all short term prisoners, that is those serving twelve months or less, subject of some form of statutory supervision. This is long overdue, but governments of both colours felt the cost not to be justified in the past. It will seriously piss off a lot of repeat short term offenders of course who have been used to not having to bother about the attention of probation officers, but it will have to be paid for out of the existing total, and reducing, NOMS budget, so it doesn't require a genius to see what problems this innovation will bring.    

8 comments:

  1. Your lot deserve to lose their jobs for all the good your service does[not!] i only had two dealings with you lot and both left a nasty impression on me.I hope you all end up on the Dole!

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    1. By the nature of our work we are unlikely to have universal support, but it would be helpful if you could say a bit more about your negative experiences.

      Thanks,

      Jim

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    2. I was homeless and could not give an address i was using my ex wife's address as a c/o. whom the officer asked if i could live with,i replied that i couldn't, that sent me to prison! because they couldn't tag me.Then the guy in the prison was so busy it was hard to find him and i had a hard time with him,all he wanted was me out of the prison asap. which was another disaster as i got nearly to the end of my htc and got rearrested for visiting my sick father!

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    3. Stev-i,

      Thanks for getting back to me, but I have to say I'm not sure how Probation might have been able to better help you given the circumstances you describe. I hope things are better for you now.

      Jim

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  2. By the nature of our work we are unlikely to have universal support,

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  3. I'm borrowing that phrase.

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  4. where is this clear recent evidence of fraud and fiddling in the welfare to work sector? Before you say A4e, it would be as well to note that the allegations against them pre-date PbR and the Work Programme. Do you have other evidence?

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