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National Offender Management Service

Volume 514: debated on Tuesday 20 July 2010

The original objective of the National Offender Management Service was more effectively to deliver prison and probation services in a co-ordinated way. The current structure has not worked as well as predicted and will not best serve the objectives of coalition policy towards the rehabilitation of offenders and the involvement of social investors, and the private and voluntary sectors in this work. Therefore, the structure of the National Offender Management Service is being considered not only as part of the Department’s overall contribution to the spending review, but to ensure the effective delivery of prison and probation services in the light of this autumn’s Green Paper on the new approaches to rehabilitation and the review of sentencing policy. That work will also reflect the three strands of the big society agenda, which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister announced yesterday: social action, public service and community empowerment.

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. Can he assist by saying what opportunities will exist for probation trusts when we consider our rehabilitation reforms?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her question. Today’s probation trusts possess the nation’s professional expertise on offender management. We want to release all our capacity—public, private and voluntary—to effect a revolution in how we provide for rehabilitation of offenders. No organisations are better placed to deliver that than today’s probation trusts. I hope that they seize this chance, which is why I have asked the Probation Association and the Probation Chiefs Association to work urgently with my officials to help shape our Green Paper proposals. I am confident about what probation trusts will be able to achieve.

I recommend the Minister deal with the point that I believe the hon. Lady was raising. In Nottinghamshire, there is certainly a strong case for a probation trust, but irrespective of whether we have a particular type of structure on offender management, do not the cuts to the prison budget—and, indeed, as we have heard today, the cuts to the probation service—show that the big society to which he referred is actually a euphemism for allowing prisoners to roam free within the community at large?

No, it is not. The hon. Gentleman and all his right hon. and hon. Friends are going to have to get used to the fact that we are going to do things rather differently. We are going to pay for outputs, not direct inputs or have targets or over-control our public services by instructing them precisely how to achieve their objectives. One way in which we are going to increase our capacity for offender management is, I hope, to enable probation trusts to be able to affect the involvement of the whole community—including the private, the voluntary and charitable sectors—to increase our nation’s capacity to deal with offenders and to rehabilitate them effectively.