Firstly I just want to clarify that both the Prison Service and the Probation Service already sit together along with the Youth Custody Service within the HMPPS executive agency and have done now for several years. Across the agency, we are all there to achieve the same things – to protect the public, reduce reoffending and change lives. One HMPPS does not therefore represent a ‘merger’ or changes in that regard. Instead, we want to build on what we already have and bring prisons and probation closer together to achieve better outcomes for victims, communities and offenders.
It has indeed been a challenging few years across the Probation Service and HMPPS as a whole responding to COVID, implementing major reforms and dealing with frontline staffing shortages. We also know the autumn is likely to present new challenges as it will for all government departments. We therefore want to ensure stability whilst also preparing for what may be ahead and ultimately make sure we have the very best model to deliver our core services with a greater focus on the frontline.
The One HMPPS programme
We have launched the One HMPPS programme with the aim of refocusing the agency on our core operational business making sure our Probation and Prison frontline staff have the right support to be able to deliver the very best services. We are in the very early stages of design but we are exploring how closer regional working and a greater focus on the frontline can help us to achieve this. In doing so, we absolutely commit to not only keeping but truly maximising the distinct professional identities of both the Probation Service and the Prison Service. We are one team but we all have different roles to play within this and that will not change.
Our Probation and Prison senior leaders already work closely together across a range of local partnership arrangements and they know and understand their offender groups and the issues which impact on their communities. We want to consider how we can empower them further and strengthen our joint impact regionally through devolved decision making and by building and delivering through stronger relationships with our stakeholders.
A range of models
To do this, we are looking at a range of models including our current arrangements in Wales where we have the HMPPS in Wales structure and considering how we could build upon this to provide greater autonomy to the regions to allow them to innovate and to build upon local networks to best meet the needs of their local cohorts. We are also taking the learning from previous models which have sought to do this. We are speaking to our front line staff and our senior leaders to get their thoughts as we want to make sure our future model works for them and enables them to deliver their important roles each day to the best of their abilities.
To summarise, the Probation Service is absolutely here to stay as a distinct professional organisation in its own right continuing to work closely with the Prison Service to deliver the sentences of the courts. What we want to do is make sure that the structure that wraps around it, is the most effective and efficient model it can be and helps our staff deliver their important roles. It is early days but we will ensure whatever we do, it will be with the very minimal change or disruption to the front line as they are our priority in all of this. Indeed, we want this to be a positive experience for them, putting them rightly at the heart of everything we do so that in turn they can deliver the very best services for victims, communities and offenders.