2013 and all that
The House of Commons Library yesterday (22 January 2016) published a briefing paper detailing developments in the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) initiative.
Written by Pat Strickland, Contracting out probation services 2013-2016, the paper charts the history of TR and brings together some of the commentary so far. As you would expect, the paper is balanced and includes Conservative and Labour perspectives as well as viewpoints from interested parties such as NAPO (the probation union) and Clinks (the umbrella body for voluntary sector organisations working in criminal justice).
TR in a nutshell
Under the Transforming Rehabilitation programme, the Coalition Government introduce major controversial reforms including:
- Abolishing Probation Trusts
- Contracting out the majority of probation work to private and voluntary sector providers in 21 new Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs)
- Introducing a new public sector National Probation Service (NPS) to manage high-risk offenders and service the courts
- In addition, an extra 45,000 offenders are being brought into the probation system. This is because, for the first time time, those sentenced to less than 12 months in prison will be subject to supervision in the community upon release.
In late 2013, the MoJ invited bids to run the new CRCs and 30 bidders were shortlisted; eight providers were finally chosen. These are mainly led by the private sector working in partnership with voluntary sector organisations (although one is led by a probation staff “mutual”.
In June 2014, the new NPS was launched and the 21 CRCs were created. Staff employed by Probation Trusts were divided between the two parts of the service. The CRCs were initially publicly owned until 1 February 2015 when the eight new providers took ownership.
The CRCs started providing what are called “through the gate” services from 1 May 2015. The MoJ established a network of resettlement prisons which house prisoners in the last weeks of their sentence and the CRCs provide resettlement services in those prisons.
A key part of the reforms was a Payment by Results mechanism in the contracts. CRC’s receive funding in two parts:
- They get a fee for some services. These include the “through the gate” services and delivering the court sentence and licence conditions.
- By 2017 they will receive PbR payments if they achieve statistically significant reductions in reoffending.
The briefing includes the further information about PbR that Andrew Selous, Minister for Prisons, Probation and Rehabilitation, provided in a letter to the Justice Committee in October 2015. The letter made it clear that PbR would apply after a three-month “bedding in” period of each cohort of offenders. Quarterly cohorts will be established and measured from the start of the financial quarter beginning 1 October 2015 and there would be a 26 month period between the start of the cohort, meaning that the first potential payments to CRC’s under the mechanism would be made in December 2017.
This 26 month period is made up of:
- 3 months for the establishment of each cohort
- 12 months the measurements
- 6 months the cases to clear the court
- 5 months of analysis, calculation and confirmation.
The paper also includes a very brief summary of the Westminster Hall debate on the Transforming Rehabilitation programme which took place on 28 October 2015 and a detailed appendix with the composition of each of the 21 CRCs.
What’s the verdict so far?
The briefing paper offers a brief overall summary of TR to date:
There have been concerns about the pace of change, about the danger of fragmentation and about IT systems. The MoJ has emphasised the importance of the voluntary sector in the CRC partnerships; however, they have been concerns about lack of clarity for that sector about what their role will be.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation has produced three reports evaluating the reforms as they have gone through. The most recent found improvements in communication between the CRCs and the NPS, and good practice in delivery. However, there were problems with risk assessment and child protection and enforcement was variable.
This official document encapsulates the history of TR to date in an easy-to-read style but it is clear that we must wait for almost another two years before we find out whether the new system has any impact on reducing reoffending.
For further information on TR, check out my free resource pack.