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Abolishment of the Probation Service

Volume 567: debated on Tuesday 10 September 2013

The Petition of Residents of the UK,

Declares that the Petitioners oppose the Government’s plan to abolish the Probation Service in its current form and to privatise up to 70% of work currently undertaken by it. The Petitioners believe that those convicted by a Criminal Court should be supervised by those employed by a publicly accountable Probation Service such as currently exists; further that the Petitioners oppose the Government’s plan to abolish the 35 public sector Probation Trusts replacing them with one Probation Service that only supervises those deemed to be of a high risk of harm to the public. It is envisaged under the current plan 70% of probation work will be subject to a competitive process which excludes the Probation Service. We believe that such a plan is “high risk” in that it could place the public at a greater risk of harm.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urge the Government to stop the planned changes to the Probation Service.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Mrs Anne Main, Official Report, 16 July 2013; Vol. 566, c. 7P.]

[P001213]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Justice:

Reoffending rates in this country have been too high for too long. Last year, around 600,000 crimes were committed by people who had broken the law before. Almost half of all offenders released from our prisons offend again within a year. That goes up to almost 60% for those sentenced to prison terms of under 12 months.

The pressing need to drive down reoffending rates means that we need to look again at the way offenders are rehabilitated. This is why, on 9 May 2013, the Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, announced new measures to ensure that, for the first time, every offender released from custody receives a minimum of 12 months supervision and rehabilitation in the community. The Government are legislating to extend this statutory supervision and rehabilitation to the most prolific group of offenders—those sentenced to fewer than 12 months in custody.

We are also putting in place an unprecedented nationwide “through the prison gate” resettlement service, meaning offenders will be given continuous support by one provider from custody into the community. We will facilitate this by ensuring that most offenders are held in a prison designated to their area for at least three months before release.

We want to draw on the best services that can be offered by practitioners across the public, private and voluntary sectors, so that we can deliver better support to more offenders. This is why we are opening up the market to a diverse range of new rehabilitation providers. These providers, who will deliver services across 21 Contract Package Areas, will have the freedom to innovate and to focus on turning around the lives of offenders but will only be paid in full for real reductions in reoffending. Our plans will also use competition to drive greater efficiency, which is vital to free up the resources we need so that we can extend rehabilitation to a wider group of offenders.

The competition process has been designed, as far as possible, to allow a range of different kinds of entities to be able to bid to deliver services. This could include alternative delivery vehicles and mutuals designed by individuals within existing Probation Trusts. All bidders will need to demonstrate that they reach the required quality standards across all elements. The Contract Package Areas are of a variety of sizes and values, in order to make sure more medium and small organisations—including mutuals designed by existing probation staff—can join bids to take part in delivery of services.

Public protection remains our primary priority. This is why we are creating a new National Probation Service, working to protect the public and building upon the expertise and professionalism which are already in place. Probation staff make a vital contribution to protecting the public from the most dangerous offenders and will continue to do so. Under the new system, every offender who poses a high risk of serious harm to the public will be managed by the public sector probation service.

We also recognise that risk levels can change, which is why we have designed a system where cases will be referred by the provider to the National Probation Service for a reassessment of risk if there is a significant change in the offender’s circumstances, or intelligence received indicates that the risk of serious harm may have escalated to high. If the National Probation Service assesses the case as having escalated to high it will take over the responsibility for that case. New providers will have contractual obligations to work in partnership with the public sector probation service in managing risk of serious harm.

Our Transforming Rehabilitation reforms form part of a radical programme of reform across the whole justice system, making it ready to meet the challenges of the future by reforming offenders, delivering value for the taxpayer and protecting victims and communities.