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Private Sector Probation Companies

Volume 637: debated on Tuesday 6 March 2018

There have been a number of challenges with the community rehabilitation companies—CRCs—particularly in transition. It is not all bad news: in fact, the number of people reoffending has come down by 2% and certain CRCs, such as Cumbria and my own county, are performing well. But we need to focus particularly on the questions of assessment, planning and meeting, and that is what we have focused on in the report on London that is due on Thursday.

Her Majesty’s inspectorate of probation recently warned that private sector probation companies’ focus on contract compliance rather the true quality of supervision was inevitably having an impact on culture and was undermining the established values of probation professionals. Does the Minister agree that it is time to put proper probation ahead of private profit?

The hon. Gentleman is a Nottingham Member, and I had a very interesting meeting with the CRC last week on my visit to Nottingham Prison, where the CRC is providing very good Through The Gate services—in fact, services for prisoners in prison that did not exist before the transformation reforms. Before, they were outside the prisons. I do not believe this is a question whether it is done by the private sector, the public sector or the voluntary sector, but it is a question of getting the basic standards right. As I say, that is exactly what we will be assessing the London CRC on on Thursday.

Putting it bluntly, probation privatisation has been a disaster. Despite that, the Government are still pursuing their privatisation agenda. Last week, the Government outsourced night staff in probation hostels. Given that those hostels house some of the most dangerous ex-offenders, will the Minister accept full responsibility for any impact on public safety resulting from that ideological outsourcing?

The shadow Minister refers to a decision by the National Probation Service—which is a Government- run service, so it is not a CRC service—to bring in additional contracted staff to provide double night duty in the hostels. That has been done because it is not work that is traditionally done by trained probation officers, but by contracted staff. Of course I will accept full responsibility for that decision.