7. Quality Assurance
Re Probation privatisation. Why would a private company ever prioritise public safety over profit? It is their sole reason for being.
How is it right that companies should profit from rehabilitating offenders?
Private companies do not have a social purpose, their legal priority isn't to put people first it is to make a profit for shareholders. How can the Government guarantee that the level of service currently given to service users doesn't fall, as there will be concerns that corners that will be cut to ensure profit is made and there will be an underinvestment in the provision of services offered.
Payment by results is about incentivising reductions in reoffending – that’s something that is in everyone’s interests.
We have a diverse market of bidders seeking to own and run CRCs, including mutuals run by probation staff and voluntary sector organisations, as well as private sector companies. To be successful in the competition, they will have to demonstrate that they have both robust procedures in place to identify, evaluate and manage the risks posed to the public by offenders and also sufficiently skilled and trained staff to undertake this role.
CRC contracts will set out detailed requirements in relation to offender management, including management of the risks posed by an offender, which CRCs must adhere to. Contracts have been designed to ensure that the MoJ contract managers can take robust action to deal with any risks to public safety, including the ability to step in, require action from CRCs and ultimately terminate contracts.
Furthermore there will continue to be an independent Inspectorate of Probation with the same statutory remit as now. The Inspectorate will be expected to inspect the system as a whole, covering both the public sector probation service and the contracted providers.
8. Quality Assurance
If re-offending is going to be payment by results in the CRC what do you envisage being more important to the company that wins the bid? Someone finishing their order well and to the best of their abilities? Or someone finishing their order, regardless of rehabilitation, to secure the payment?
In terms of interventions for offenders will the bidders be commissioned to focus on 'what works' and rehabilitation contributing towards changing people’s cognitive behaviours rather than reducing re-offending in the short term using more punishment led justice e.g. electronic monitoring which is often short lived in terms of reducing re-offending?
9. Domestic Violence
Any offenders who pose a high risk of serious harm to the public will be managed by the NPS.
CRCs will, in general, deliver accredited programmes in the new system, and the Government will continue to set standards for the delivery of accredited programmes. Offenders who have a requirement to attend BBR will be assessed as posing either a medium or a high risk of seriously harmful reoffending and therefore offenders supervised by both the CRC and the NPS will attend the programme. As you know, the programme is designed to be effective with offenders who pose varying levels of risk of serious harm. The exception we have made is Sex Offender Treatment Programmes (SOTPs). As all offenders eligible for SOTPs will be supervised by the NPS, it makes sense that the provision of these programmes stays within the NPS.
We plan to bring into force the provisions in the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014 that extends post-release supervision to short-sentenced prisoners when the contracts take effect. At the same time we also plan to bring into force the new rehabilitation activity requirement and other changes the Act makes to community orders and suspended sentence orders.
It seems the main argument for the privatisation of over half of the existing probation services is to supervise offenders who are sentenced to under 12 months custody, this is a separate bill. The probation service as was could have incorporated this practice if the government had allowed, therefore there should be no attachment of this particular issue to the privatisation of our staff.
Is it true that the Minister is planning to require public prisons to reduce their costs to the level of the private providers? If so, how does he expect all this 'pre-release rehabilitation' work to be achieved? When costs are sheared to the minimum, prisons will only have the resources to carry out their basic security tasks. If the 'big idea' was to assist prisoners who are currently leaving prison 'with £46 in their pockets', how does this conceivably sit with the plan to cut public prison expenditure by a third?
Why couldn't the probation service have been given the resources to supervise the under 12 months first before rolling out TR? The old saying if it isn't broke don’t fix it springs to mind? If Probation was given the amount of money spent on TR then we could have provided the government with the service it thinks it will get from private companies only with public protection as the key focus, not profit making.
Regarding the under 12 months group how do you see this group being supervised? Will any extra resources be given to engage this difficult group?
Was consideration given to introducing private service providers to the under 12 months service users, rather than trying to integrate it into the new CRC? Especially where no new financial resources are being made available to support this group of service users.
There was quality and excellence already!! Top performing Trusts ripped apart. It wasn't broken so why try and fix it! Probation Trusts were willing to work with the under 12 month offenders, but this was refused. This was the whole basis of TR in the first instance and now this isn't even being rolled out until the end of the year (if that is to be believed!)
If Probation are rated as excellent or as in the case of Northumbria "Outstanding" then why are we not being allowed to undertake the supervision of those with sentences of less than 12 months. Why give it to a French catering company who have no track record of working within criminal justice and their record to date, having seen the issues at HMP Northumberland, are poor to say the least.
How does the cost of TR compare to the cost of leaving rehabilitation in the hands of Probation and making small changes to improve results? The cost of setting this up with separate stationery, computers, payroll etc must be extreme.
We, like every other part of the system, are faced with the challenge of trying to do better for less. We could either have imposed further cuts on the structures we had inherited, risking increases in reoffending and leaving short sentence offenders without support after release or, as we are doing, reform the system so that it provides more effective rehabilitation at a better value to the taxpayer. We can only do that if we bring in the best of the public, voluntary and private sectors to work with offenders in order to reduce their reoffending rates. We currently have a healthy competition in all contract areas and all the bidders have experience in working with offenders or across the Criminal Justice System.
We are currently piloting a number of different approaches to Payment by Results across Government and have gained valuable learning from these pilots. This gives us confidence that we can design and commission robust contracts that drive the right behaviours and generate value for money.
However, there are key elements of these reforms, such as extending the licence and supervision to offenders released from short custodial sentences and the introduction of resettlement prisons, for which it is not possible to gain evidence from pilots on a local basis. It would not be desirable to introduce a change to the sentencing framework of such a magnitude in one part of the country but not another. Similarly, changes to the prison structure to re-designate some as resettlement prisons need to be carried out at a national level or they could not be carried out at all.
I want us to take this opportunity to implement these important reforms across the system, so that we can extend supervision to short sentence prisoners and start to reduce reoffending rates without delay