I am pleased to have announced plans to streamline probation delivery, through the National Probation Service, to build on the role of the private and voluntary sectors in driving innovation and to better support skilled probation officers. These changes will allow the public, private and voluntary sectors to play to their strengths and ensure stronger supervision and support for offenders. We are now developing the commercial and operational frameworks that will underlie the future system, and we are planning for the transition. We are undertaking a full programme of market engagement to inform our plans, in addition to engagement with probation staff and trade unions.
By any stretch of the imagination, the changes to the probation service have been a shambles, fragmenting the system and increasing risk to the community at large. A simple “sorry” may also help the Minister’s answer, but will he give an indication of the cost of cancelling the current contracts next year? What will be the replacement costs for the state or other providers in taking over those services?
First, “Transforming Rehabilitation” introduced bold reforms, and steps have been taken to ensure there is more innovation within our system, but I recognise that significant elements of it are not working as needed, which is why we have made the changes.
On the right hon. Gentleman’s point about costs, it is worth bearing in mind that we originally expected to spend £3.1 billion on community rehabilitation companies over a seven-year period, and we now expect to spend £2.7 billion over the same period. In other words, over the lifetime of the contracts, we now expect to spend £405 million less on CRCs than originally forecast.
Probation works best when working with local partners. A brilliant charity in my constituency is owed £1,800 as a result of Working Links going into administration. This is a significant sum for the Dracaena Centre in Falmouth. Will the Secretary of State intervene to ensure it is paid for its excellent work?
We will look at the specific case my hon. Friend raises, but we have already intervened to ensure those charities that have lost out as a consequence of what happened with Working Links receive support. I will make sure I look at her individual case.
Considering that many community rehabilitation companies are now discredited for prioritising profit over public safety, how will the Government hold them to account when mismanagement of their contractual responsibility for probation comes to light?
To be fair to the CRCs, I am not sure that any of them is taking steps to get profits—but perhaps to reduce their losses. In truth, the shareholders of CRCs have somewhat subsidised probation services in recent years. We will hold the CRCs to their contractual obligations and ensure they deliver what they are contractually obliged to deliver.