Probation watchdog chief blasts failure of ‘inexplicable’ Government reforms
Partly privatising probation services has caused a “two-tier and fragmented” system in which thousands of criminals are supervised by only a phone call every six weeks, the Government’s watchdog has said.
Britain’s top probation inspector attacked the reforms introduced by then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling saying they had led to “unexpected changes in sentencing, severe financial stresses and cutbacks, and IT failings”.
The damning report found that private 'community rehabilitation companies' (CRCs) created to manage low and medium-risk offenders are falling short of Government targets and could be putting the public at risk.
In 2014 the probation system was reformed to hand responsibility for lower risk offenders to 21 private CRCs, while the national probation service oversaw the highest-risk offenders.
Dame Glenys Stacey, the chief inspector of probation who carried out this year's report, laid out major concerns, which included findings that four in ten individuals are being supervised from a distance.
Many of them, the report shows, are monitored with only one phone call every six weeks, while in some areas up to 200 ex-offenders are being managed by one member of junior staff, with limited experience.
Ms Stacey also hit out at forced cutbacks to “tried and tested” rehabilitation programmes, including for domestic abusers.
She identified “deep-rooted” organisational and commercial problems, adding that the work of the bodies is “generally poor and needs to improve in many respects” and that ministers misjudged the number of medium-risk prisoners.
“Regrettably, none of government’s stated aspirations for Transforming Rehabilitation have been met in any meaningful way,” she said.
“I question whether the current model for probation can deliver sufficiently well.
She added: “I find it inexplicable that under the banner of innovation, these developments were allowed.
“We should all be concerned, given the rehabilitation opportunities missed, and the risks to the public if individuals are not supervised well.”
Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon said: “This report highlights what a colossal failure the Conservatives’ part-privatisation of probation has been, putting the public at greater risk and increasingly leaving the taxpayer out of pocket.
“It is totally unacceptable that the Tories recently bailed out the privatised probation companies with hundreds of millions of pounds of public money when they are not even meeting basic expectations, while slashing staff and axing services.
Secretary of State David Lidington said: “We have already changed CRCs contracts to better reflect their costs and are continuing to review them.
“We are clear that CRCs must deliver a higher standard of probation services.”