On 22nd January 2014 the House of Commons Justice Committee published its interim report on the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation Programme. This is the second in a short series of posts examining the report’s findings.
The Transition from Trusts to CRCs and NPS
If you’ve got a keen interest in the changes to the probation system , you’ll be aware of the way that ministers have adjusted the key terms they use to describe the change programme. What started out as a Rehabilitation Revolution turned into a Transformation programme and now the mantra is very much “Evolution, not Revolution”. The timetable for the programme has continued to change and the Committee doesn’t seem to have been kept abreast of this. They actually use an old version of my timeline for the programme which has been subsequently updated twice – the most recent version dates from 20 January 2014.
Another area of uncertainty highlighted by the Committee is the exact nature of the split between the National Probation Service and the Community Rehabilitation Companies. While the MoJ has stuck to its original estimate of a 30/70 caseload split (30% high risk of harm cases to go to NPS, 70% low-medium risk to CRCs), it wasn’t able to tell the Committee how resources would be allocated; saying only that it would be somewhere in the 30/70 – 50/50 range.
As discussed in previous posts in this series, the Justice Committee was evenly divided on political grounds with as many members supporting TR as those opposing it. The report therefore discusses both views of every issue. They do, however, very usefully set out what they see as the main risks of the transition process.
A divided service
Many witnesses who gave evidence to the Committee highlighted the inherent difficulties about the division of offender management between high risk and low-medium risk offenders, making the point that risk is dynamic and that there will need to be excellent communication across the two bodies to manage effectively those offenders whose risk levels rise and fall.
Witnesses also drew attention to the importance of a consistent relationship between offender manager and offender and questioned if this could be maintained for those who are transferred back and forth.
Witnesses were also concerned that the change process might damage Probation Trusts’ existing work with local partner agencies, particularly statutory partners. Integrated Offender Management (IOM) was highlighted as an example of effective joint work between the probation and police services to target the most prolific and persistent local offenders.
Concerns about partnerships included: conflict between national and local commissioners; neglect of the role of Police and Crime Commissioners and local authorities; and the need for partners to develop effective working relationships with what are essentially two local probation services.
Retention of a skilled workforce
A further concern raised by the Committee related to staff qualifications in the new probation world – particularly what qualifications staff working for the CRCs would be required to have and the ongoing consequences for staff’s professional development after the split.
The Committee welcomed the creation of the Probation Institute but expressed “considerable concern” about this issue and felt that new providers should be contractually required to:
“have a minimum proportion of qualified probation staff related to the volume and risk levels of offenders supervised and to provide continuous training”]
The next post in this series looks at the Committee’s consideration of the proposed payment mechanism and the implications of introducing payment by results.
For basic details of the report – contents, members of the Select Committee etc. – see this post.