As part of this major programme of reform, we introduced the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014. This made a number of changes to the sentencing framework, most notably changing the law so that all offenders released from short prison sentences now receive 12 months of supervision in the community.
These provisions came into force on 1 February 2015, and apply to offences committed on or after that date. We are therefore building up a cohort of offenders who would previously have been released from prison with £46 in their pocket and little else. Now those offenders receive statutory supervision and assistance with their resettlement back in the community.
To enable the Ministry of Justice to extend statutory rehabilitation in the community to the 45,000 offenders sentenced to less than 12 months in custody, we needed to make significant structural changes both to the Probation Service and the Prison Service. Therefore, after consultation, the 35 Probation Trusts were re-organised into 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies, or CRCs, and a single National Probation Service, known as the NPS.
As you know, transition to the new probation structures took place on 1 June last year, from which date the NPS and 21 CRCs were live and supervising offenders. Offenders who pose a high risk of serious harm to the public, or are convicted of the most serious offences, are being managed by the public sector NPS, while medium and lower risk offenders are being managed by the CRCs. The NPS sits within the National Offender Management Service, while the 21 CRCs remained in public ownership until 1 February this year when 8 new providers took ownership of, and began running, the CRCs. The CRCs are being run by a diverse group of providers, including a range of voluntary sector providers, which have experience in rehabilitating offenders. These providers will be remunerated via a system which rewards them for reducing reoffending – payment by results.
Transforming Rehabilitation also brought about substantial reform to the prison system. To support improved rehabilitation outcomes, the prison estate was reorganised to facilitate a “Through the Gate” model where offenders are given help and support from within custody and in to the community to which they will return on release. In order to do this, the National Offender Management Service established a network of 89 Resettlement Prisons in what has involved a large scale re-organisation of prisoner allocation and re-configuration of roles for a substantial part of the prison estate. Short term prisoners and prisoners in the last 12 weeks of their sentence are being housed in those prisons where CRCs provide a Through the Gate resettlement service including support to offenders for accommodation needs, employment brokerage and retention, finance and debt advice and support for sex workers and victims of domestic violence.
It has now been 8 months since CRCs transitioned to their new owners. So how is the new probation system looking? It is encouraging, given the scale of change that the probation service has gone through, that, based on the wide range of information we published last November, and in July this year, performance is broadly consistent with pre-transition levels. Probation staff in both the NPS and the CRCs have worked very hard to implement these reforms and we of course continue to support them as the new ways of working become embedded.
In regard to the Community Rehabilitation Companies all the new providers have commenced the process of restructuring their CRCs in order to implement the business models which they set out in their bids during the competition to win the CRC contracts. As the 8 providers only took over the running of their CRCs on 1 February this year these changes are in the early stages. By opening up the market to these new providers the Transforming Rehabilitation programme aimed to ensure that new and innovative approaches would be used to reduce reoffending and bring in best practice from the public, private and third sectors. Initial innovation can already be observed as the eight providers establish new ways of working, ranging from streamlining back office functions and installing modern ICT to implementing new management styles.
One of the first priorities for the new owners of the 21 CRCs was to get their Through the Gate services up and running by 1 May. Resettlement services relating to employment and accommodation brokerage, and finance and debt advice are now in place. Work continues to drive up standards of this service in both custody and the community with a view to further reducing reoffending, and we are monitoring delivery closely to ensure that these resettlement services meets the high standards set out in our design.
Intensive contract management by my officials will ensure CRC providers continue to deliver as we go forward. Contract management teams, comprising regionally-based combined teams of operational and commercial staff, are managing CRC contracts, ensuring contractor compliance and consistent levels of performance and delivery of the contract, including all statutory functions.
The Transforming Rehabilitation reforms have made substantial changes to the way we manage offenders in England and Wales. And I am proud to be a part of the team that made that happen. There of course remains much work to be done as we embed these reforms, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank probation and prison staff for their continued hard work. They are doing a magnificent job and deserve widespread recognition.
The BBC's Danny Shaw reports that HM Chief Probation Inspector Paul Wilson tells criminal justice conference his "real concern" is that resources will become so "stretched"......there'll be more "inexperienced staff" with "unrealistic workloads" & "more distant managers" in probation. It's a "worry" says Paul Wilson.
This comment from yesterday:-
It is probably true that Mr Selous is told that all of these things are in place and that things are progressing well, his managers, lackeys et al are not going to tell him they are failing/have failed are they?
Some things are in place but they are NOT working. There are too many people in place that do not know how the system works nor how to do whatever role it is they are supposed to be fulfilling. There may well be systems and processes loaded up into a map or whatever, but people can neither understand them, have no time to access them and in any event many of these just do not join up or make sense practically or otherwise.
The systems and the people within it are breaking, many have already been broken. It is simply not possible and yet those 'at the top' keep churning out huge and unreadable documents, not uncommonly followed by a revised version a short time later. The 'tools' are time consuming, inefficient and are years behind the current need, evidently first developed during a different era and of even greater concern, actively act against the ability to complete accurate and fully informed assessments.
The previously, not brilliantly, but joined up working between the CJS organisations and partnerships are fractured and as people simply have too much to do, it is becoming close to impossible. The CRC's are working towards bonuses, payment by results etc and yet the NPS work and achievements are just taken for granted. NAPO was originally a professional body, not a Union and yet now it seems to be doing neither role effectively, if at all.
There was room for improvement, Probation Services and Trusts had been the people fighting for many of the changes, some of what is proposed would be beneficial. However, the way this has been done has been the most appallingly, horrendously, disgustingly, inefficient, ineffective, detrimental, damaging, poorly considered, badly implemented and downright dishonest period of change that could ever have been contemplated.