16 December 2014
Thank you for your email of 30 October to Simon Hughes, Minister for Justice and Civil Liberties, regarding the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation Reforms, and your invitation for him to attend a meeting of Greater London Napo. I have been asked to reply on behalf of the department.
As you know, the Government is introducing fundamental reforms to tackle the problem of persistent reoffending which blights our communities. It may be helpful if I began by reiterating the rationale and context for the changes we are making to the probation service. Over recent years former Probation Trusts improved their performance. While this is a tribute to the hard work of Probation staff at all levels, it is widely agreed that we need to improve provision of services and support for those who reoffend the most – who are the offenders released from prison following sentences of less than 12 months.
As in every other part of Government, we are faced with the challenge of trying to do better for less. We can either impose further cuts on the structures we have, risking increases in reoffending and leaving short sentence offenders without support after release, or we can reform the system so that it provides more effective rehabilitation at a better value to the taxpayer. We want to do this in a way that is sustainable for the future and we are committed to reinvesting most of the savings we make in order to support supervision for short sentence offenders. 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.
As you may be aware, on 19 September last year we launched the competition to find the future owners of the Community Rehabilitation Companies which will deliver rehabilitation services in England and Wales for low and medium risk offenders. On 5 December 2014, contracts were awarded to the successful bidders for the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies. You will also be aware that transition to the new probation structures took place on 1 June 2014 and the National Probation Service and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies are now live and supervising offenders within the new structures. The 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies remain in public ownership until the transition process is completed.
The item on the ‘Today’ programme to which you referred in your email implied that our reforms were rushed, untested, unpiloted, and are putting the public at risk. That is not the case. Public protection remains a key priority, and our crucial reforms to probation are being rolled-out in a sensible way, with testing at every stage. Thorough, externally assured business-and-systems-readiness testing was conducted to review key activities that had to be completed prior to transition on 1 June. Evidence from the testing demonstrated that the business was ready to make the transition. We have also conducted testing at each stage as we moved towards contract award.
During the ‘Today’ programme item, the Minister also referred to the fact that we have been piloting a number of different approaches to Payment by Results (PbR) across Government and have gained valuable learning from these. At HMP Peterborough, for example, the short sentenced offenders who received through-the-gate support on release - as part of an innovative PbR Social Impact Bond pilot - are less likely to reoffend than those outside the scheme. A second PbR pilot operating out of HMP Doncaster has also shown marked falls in reoffending. The lessons we have drawn from implementing our pilots, together with the experience of other departments in using Payment by Results, have informed the design and commission of robust contracts which drive the right behaviours and generate value for money.
Finally, I would like to thank you for your invitation to the Minister to attend a meeting
of Greater London Napo. Can I suggest that if Napo Greater London branch would
like to discuss these reforms and their concerns further they approach the London
Community Rehabilitation Company.
Transforming Rehabilitation Programme