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Probation Service

Volume 558: debated on Tuesday 5 February 2013

The Ministry of Justice recently published the consultation paper “Transforming Rehabilitation—a revolution in the way we manage offenders”, which sets out our plans for reforming the way in which offenders are rehabilitated in the community. The consultation closes on 22 February 2013, and we will announce further details of our proposals once we have considered the responses.

Under the Secretary of State’s proposals, services will be fragmented across a wide range of providers and will be rewarded through payment by results, which will prevent public sector probation trusts from competing for those services. So how will he ensure that the high levels of performance now provided by probation trusts in protecting the public and reducing reoffending will be maintained?

Let us be clear about why we are doing this: reoffending rates in this country have barely changed in 10 years, and it is not true to say that we are getting the kind of performance across the probation service that the hon. Lady suggests. There is good work being done in the probation service, in the voluntary sector and in the private sector, and my aim is to have a package of proposals that brings to bear the strengths of all three in reducing reoffending rates.

Why have the Government come up with the idea that the commissioning of probation services should be done by a national body, rather than a local or regional one, given that that undermines the way in which local bodies concerned with preventing crime can work together and the ability of local and regional voluntary sector organisations to take part?

There are two reasons. First, we do not believe that the expertise exists on a localised basis to procure payment by results in an ambitious way—the kind we are proposing. Secondly, many probation trust management teams are enthusiastic about being part of the contracted-out world themselves, so I hope and expect that we will see some of them forming partnerships and creating new bodies that will take the service forward.