Chris Grayling's 'breakneck' probation reforms will cost taxpayers £467m, say MPs
Radical reforms to the probation service were introduced too quickly by Chris Grayling and will end up costing the public purse nearly half a billion pounds, according to MPs.
In a damning report, the Public Accounts Committee said the "breakneck" introduction of the part-privatisation left services underfunded and lacking the confidence of the courts.
The changes have also failed to improve re-offending rates, the MPs said, while the Ministry of Justice's attempts to fix the problems by cancelling contracts 14 months early has landed taxpayers with a bill for £467 million.
Under the 'Transforming Rehabilitation' changes, private companies were set up to manage low-or medium risk offenders, and the National Probation Service dealt with those posing higher risks.
However, the committee said the "breakneck" speed at which the reforms were introduced under Mr Grayling during his time as Justice Secretary "created an unacceptable level of risk that was not sufficiently challenged by the safeguards intended to protect the taxpayer".
"The Ministry has created an underfunded and fragile probation market and we are not confident in its ability to cope with further provider failure," the report said.
And it added: "The Ministry’s decision to split the probation service has let down offenders and those working in the justice system."
Committee chair Meg Hillier said: “Despite warnings from this committee and the National Audit Office over the past three years, the Ministry of Justice has failed to bring about the promised revolution in rehabilitation.
"Rather than deliver the savings hoped for at the start of the programme, the Ministry’s attempts to address the failures in the reforms have cost the taxpayer an additional £467 million while failing to achieve the anticipated improvements in reoffending behaviour.
"Over-optimistic initial forecasts left the Ministry of Justice fighting fires of their own making since the programme’s inception."
The Labour MP added: "The way offenders are treated on their release from prison has a significant impact on how they re-integrate into society – the failures of this programme have left offenders unsupported leading to further costs to taxpayers in dealing with both reoffending and supporting individuals failed by the rehabilitation system.
"The Ministry of Justice must demonstrate that it has learnt lessons and be more assertive in addressing the failures of design, delivery and financial planning."