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Offender Rehabilitation

Volume 558: debated on Tuesday 5 February 2013

8. How he plans to ensure that the voluntary and charitable sectors play a full role in the rehabilitation of offenders. (141247)

Retaining the expertise and dynamism of the voluntary and community sector within the justice system is central to our approach. We have already announced an extra £500,000 of grant funding to support voluntary sector organisations, helping them to compete for contracts. My team and I are meeting a large number of such bodies early in this process to ensure that they are as fully on board as possible.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his reply. His recent statement on transforming rehabilitation has the potential to be hugely positive for the voluntary sector, but it is crucial that charities can compete for contracts on a level playing field. What action have the Government taken to make sure that charities are not at a disadvantage when competing for contracts on a payment by results basis?

I would make two points to my hon. Friend. I absolutely agree with his premise but, first, the cash-flow element of the proposals that we have introduced will not be as tough as that for the Work programme. Part of the task is to pay for the requirements of the court, so the cash-flow situation will be rather different. Secondly, I am making sure that we really engage the social investment sector, which can play an important part in ensuring that voluntary sector organisations can compete on that level playing field and win on it.

The Secretary of State will know that we privatised and contracted out hospital cleaning, and that led to MRSA. We privatised and contracted out school meals, and that led to turkey twizzlers. Why does he think that in relation to the probation service—such an important service—privatising and contracting out will lead to a better end?

If I am not mistaken, the right hon. Gentleman was a Minister in the previous Government who introduced the legislation that makes these changes possible. The Opposition say one thing one day and another thing the next. The truth is that reoffending rates in this country have barely changed in a decade, despite extra money being spent, and I want to bring those rates down.