Unfortunately I'm as guilty as anyone of having taken rather too long for the penny to sufficiently drop. I rather naively stayed clinging to the more usual belief that if something is working rather well, you leave it alone, and certainly don't set out to destroy it and replace it with something completely untested. But that is exactly what is happening and no amount of gold medals, excellent reports or fantastic performance figures counts one jot. Just look at this graph on the MoJ's own website in relation to the latest reoffending figures and that demonstrate clearly probation works:-
Under TR, much of our work will be farmed out to a whole rag bag collection of organisations comprising vast and dubious corporations like G4S and Serco, new players such as Eddie Stobart and Marks & Spencer, through to charities large and small. Whatever is said in the glossy bid documents about 'quality services', in reality each bidder will be driven by the dual need to save money and make profits under a Payment by Results system.
The best example of what is to come is provided by the government's flagship PbR project, the Work Programme, and it doesn't look at all promising in terms of delivering, judging by the latest statistics published by the DWP. I certainly won't pretend I've read or understood any of the figures, but happily Russell Webster has, and he has distilled the findings into a succinct blog post, the headlines of which are:-
- Peformance has improved – but still hasn’t hit the DWP’s minimum expectations.
- Job outcomes have improved month on month for those on Job Seekers Allowance, but is now plateauing.
- Job outcomes for those on Employment and Support Allowance has improved but is still way below target.
- JSA claimants who are found work are staying in those jobs longer.
- ESA claimants are not sustaining jobs at the desired level.
- Three providers are being penalised for poor performance.
Does it work for offenders released from prison?
Released prisoners on Job Seekers Allowance were first made eligible for the Work Programme immediately on release in February 2012.
A total of 19,800 of these released prisoners were referred to the Work Programme between February and December 2012.
13,560 (68%) of these were “attached” to the Work Programme (that is, providers started working with them).
360 of these (2.7% of the attached figure) have so far (figures up to June 2013) been found sustainable jobs - jobs that lasted for at least six months.
This figure is obviously very low, although it can be expected to increase as it takes several months to find some individuals work.