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Ministers announce plans to end privatisation of probation services in major overhaul of Grayling-era reforms

Reforms brought in by Chris Grayling are to be scrapped

2 min read

Ministers have announced plans to nationalise probation services in England and Wales, marking an end to reforms brought in by former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.

Private firms will be stripped of their role in rehabilitating offenders from next June after Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said the system needed to be "streamlined" in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

It comes after reforms brought in under former Justice Secretary Chris Grayling in 2014 saw the public National Probation Service (NPS) managing only the most high-risk cases, with others supervised by privately owned community rehabilitation companies (CRC).

But Mr Buckland said management of low and medium-risk cases would now be taken over by the NPS when the private contracts end next year, with 2,000 workers from private firms brought over to the national service.

Mr Grayling's reforms have proved deeply unpopular with those working in the sector, including the probation watchdog which previously branded them "irredeemably flawed".

But announcing the changes in the House of Commons, Mr Buckland said the Covid-19 pandemic had made management of the system "considerably more complex" as he insisted the new nationalised scheme was required to ensure "public and judicial confidence".

"Giving priority to unifying the management of offenders under a single organisation by June next year as planned, whilst giving us greater flexibility to respond to an uncertain picture across the criminal justice system and beyond," he said.

"Under those revised plans, we will end the competitive process for probation delivery partners.

"The delivery of unpaid-work and behavioural-change programmes will be instead brought under control of the NPS (National Probation Service) alongside offender supervision when current CRC (Community Rehabilitation Company) contracts end in June of next year."

He added: "This will give us a critical measure of control, resilience and flexibility with these services that we would not have had were they delivered under 12 contracts with a number of organisations."

Meanwhile, Mr Buckland said charities, social enterprises and private companies would be allowed to bid for money from a new £100m fund to provide education and employment services for those released from prison.

Responding to the announcement, Labour's shadow justice secretary David Lammy said he welcomed the government's "U-turn" on the policy.

"It’s a U-turn we have been calling for for many, many years in this House," he added.

"Since the reforms reoffending rates have climbed up to 32%.  That is members of the public, victims across the country, who have been subject to offenders and to crime.  They would not have been subject to the trauma that they were put through had this privatisation not been brought in in the first place."

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