Skip to main content

Privatisation of the Probation Service

Volume 571: debated on Wednesday 4 December 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’s 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 Mr Nicholas Brown, Official Report, 16 October 2013; Vol. 568, c. 856.]


A petition in the same terms was presented by the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright) [P001232].

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 rehabilitation is organised. This is why, on 9 May 2013, the Secretary of State for Justice announced new measures to reform rehabilitation services for offenders. Aimed at tackling our stubbornly high reoffending rates, these measures will ensure that, for the first time, every offender released from custody receives a minimum of 12 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 less 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 support 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 to find the future providers of rehabilitation services was launched on 19 September and will continue through 2014 with contracts being awarded and mobilised by 2015.

Protecting the public remains out primary priority, and 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.

We are taking a phased approach to implementation and are working closely now with Probation Trusts to test key elements of new model, including the new risk assessment tool and case allocation process and arrangements for dealing with breach and recall to custody. These tests will ensure the restructured business, systems and support infrastructure are fit for purpose and are ready to go live.

Our Transforming Rehabilitation reforms are essential for improving reoffending rates. They 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.