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House of Lords Hansard
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Transforming Rehabilitation Programme
31 October 2016
Volume 776

Question

Asked by

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To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Transforming Rehabilitation programme is, as suggested by the then Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice, Lord Faulks, changing the lives of thousands of people by reforming the supervision of all offenders in the community (HL Deb, 11 March 2014, col 1695).

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My Lords, the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms mean that, for the first time, around 45,000 prisoners serving sentences of less than 12 months receive statutory supervision and support on release and a nationwide through-the-gate resettlement service has been introduced for all prisoners. As these fundamental reforms bed down, we are conducting a comprehensive review of the probation system to make sure that it is reducing reoffending, cutting crime and preventing future victims.

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My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. On 12 September the Public Accounts Committee in the other place published a highly critical report on Transforming Rehabilitation, saying that after two years there was still no clear picture of how the reforms imposed on the probation system by the Offender Rehabilitation Act were working in important areas, such as the supervision of several thousand previously unsupervised short-term prisoners, as mentioned by the Minister. The skilled advocacy of the noble Lord, Lord Faulks, during the passage of the Act persuaded many noble Lords to vote for the proposed reforms, despite a very alarming Ministry of Justice risk assessment that there was a distinct possibility that many of them could not be delivered. Will the Minister please tell the House whether there is any evidence that the reforms are changing more lives than the system they replaced?

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My Lords, I shall deal first with the issues raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, concerning the Public Accounts Committee. We are considering the committee’s report; its findings and recommendations are informing our review of the probation system. We will respond in due course. As the noble Lord said, a review of the whole probation system is being undertaken. I should also inform the House that a White Paper will be published shortly that will look more at prison reform and safety.

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My Lords, the probation service is clearly key to an effective and successful rehabilitation programme. What assessment has the Ministry of Justice made of the scale of impact of staff reductions in community rehabilitation companies and the National Probation Service? Is it correct that the CRC contractor in South Yorkshire is facing a possible service credit fine of up to £2 million because of its failure to deliver the better relationships programme for perpetrators of domestic abuse?

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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, asks a number of detailed questions. I will have to write to him on these issues. It is too early to judge the success of the CRCs. We will not know whether they have achieved their initial payment-by-results targets until final reoffending data are published in autumn 2017.

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My Lords, the report just a few days ago of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons and Chief Inspector of Probation makes harsh reading for the Government. This is the second report that they have produced in the past 12 months and it says:

“There has been little change, little delivered, and progress is pedestrian at best”.

Can the Minister tell us how the Government are intending get a grip on this situation, so that we can have less offending, get more people into work, have fewer people in prison and put money back into the public purse? It is surely time for the Government to get a grip on this matter.

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My Lords, the noble Lord is correct about how much reoffending costs the country, which is in the region of £13 billion. He is right that we must get a grip on this. As he is aware, in 2010 we had the report, Breaking the Cycle. In 2012, we had Punishment and Reform, looking at probation services. We had another report on services and then Transforming Rehabilitation. This is what we are trying to do. Offenders need to be supported through the prison gate, but we must not look only at offenders. We must also look at public protection and at supporting victims.

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Would it not be more effective to invest more money in schools training in prisons and to create job opportunities when they leave prison?

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My Lords, the noble Lord is right. This is how one of these systems, on supporting offenders through the prison gate, is working. These services were already working with prisoners before they leave prison. Once they leave, they are helped with accommodation and finding jobs so that they can support their families and make an honest living.

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My Lords, will the Minister accept from me that Transforming Rehabilitation has been an absolute disaster for women’s community services? Previously, women’s centres took women ex-offenders. Now, very few do. The companies that contract, many of which are multinationals, as the Minister knows, have 44-page contracts with gagging clauses. They have provision for a £10,000 fee if any provision is changed. These are small charities doing a remarkable job for the public good. Will the Minister please look at the report of Dame Glenys Stacey, the Chief Inspector of Probation, who has condemned what is happening under this Government, and make sure that women offenders have somewhere to go when they come out of prison?

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The noble Baroness makes a very good point about women offenders. We are closely monitoring the system to ensure that probation providers take account of the particular needs of female offenders and deliver on their commitments. I am sure the report to which the noble Baroness refers is being studied by the department.

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My Lords, is the Minister willing to look again at the level of support available for young people who have been in care for a large part of their lives and who leave prison with very little, if any, support? We expect a great deal of coping skills from people with the fewest opportunities in life.

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The noble Lord makes a valid point on the importance of supporting young people who come out of prison. I do not have the exact figures, but I imagine many of them are repeat offenders as well. There is of course a duty for us to try to prevent these individuals reoffending.