MPs say probation system reforms brought in by Chris Grayling are 'a mess'
Major reforms to the probation system brought in by Cabinet minister Chris Grayling have created a “mess”, according to MPs.
The Justice Select Committee said the ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ (TR) project would probably never deliver its aims of reducing reoffending.
The report is a fresh embarrassment for Mr Grayling, who overhauled the probation system as Justice Secretary in 2014.
His reforms saw the probation service split in two, with a new regime of monitoring medium and low-risk offenders through 21 private companies.
But the Justice Committee said the split had created a two-tier system, with staff morale at an “all-time low” and support for those leaving jail “wholly inadequate”.
Conservative chair Bob Neill said: "The TR reforms had some laudable aims but these reforms have failed to meet them. We are unconvinced that TR will ever deliver the kind of probation service we need."
He added: “Hardworking and dedicated staff are doing their best with a probation system that is currently a mess."
The committee called into question the performance of the private firms, the training of staff and the reduced links between the probation service and the voluntary sector.
Prisons and probation minister Rory Stewart said the Transforming Rehabilitation overhaul was a "significant programme of reform".
"For instance, an additional 40,000 people who would not previously have been monitored now receive support and supervision upon release," he said.
"Fewer people are re-offending and there have been some innovative and impressive programmes."
Mr Stewart acceped that the state service to monitor high-risk offenders was facing "challenges" and needed improvement.
"We are currently in commercial discussions with providers and will consider all possible options to ensure we deliver this improvement," he added.
According to the BBC, contracts awarded to the 21 private firms could end two years early in 2020.
The legacy left by Mr Grayling at the Ministry of Justice was all but erased by his successor Michael Gove, who overturned legal aid reforms, court charges, and a ban on prisoners receiving books, among other things.
Mr Grayling is currently serving as Transport Secretary, and has been blasted for his handling of dismal rail services across the country.