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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Where next for probation?

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MoJ response to Justice Committee gives clues to Transforming Rehabilitation version 2.

10 hints about TR2

Last week, the House of Commons Justice Select Committee published the Ministry of Justice’s interim response to the Committee’s report on Transforming Rehabilitation in the form of a letter from David Gauke to Committee Chair, Bob Neill.

We know that the MoJ has decided to finish the current private probation contracts early and will launch its procurement process to recommission 10 English Community Rehabilitation Companies (instead of the current 20) next year.

The letter to the Justice Committee gives the first clues about the MoJ’s thinking for the second iteration of Transforming Rehabilitation. 

This blog post contains 10 things from the letter that might be of interest to anyone trying to predict the future of probation.

1: Current providers may have an advantage

The MoJ is developing a transition strategy to secure a smooth handover between the current and new CRC providers:

“Ensuring operational continuity of services is a priority, and the ability of suppliers to support a secure transition will be take into account when evaluating the bids for future contracts”.

2: Performance measures to be updated

One of the criticisms of the current PbR contracts is that the baseline for reoffending outcomes was too out-of-date. The MoJ has confirmed that it will update the baseline to 2015/16 from the current 2011.

3: Addressing under-performance

The MoJ says that CRCs are subject to improvement plans when they fail to deliver on a particular performance metric. As of July 2018, there were 35 improvement plans in place across 15 CRCs, covering 10 service metrics.

4: The role of Police and Crime Commissioners

I criticised the move to 10 CRC areas in England because these boundaries comprise several police/PCC areas and make local accountability and co-ordination hard to achieve. Nevertheless, the MoJ is clear that it wants “to encourage greater strategic engagement and co-commissioning of services with PCCs”. It has set up a working group with 6 PCC leads, as well as exploring devolution in London and Greater Manchester.

5: Workforce planning

The MoJ is working on a workforce strategy for probation which will consider professional standards and training as well as ensuring there are sufficient probation officers in both the NPS and CRCs.

6: The MoJ has taken IT in-house

IT problems, particularly the lack of inter-operability between CRC and MoJ systems have been a big contributor to the under-performance of the split probation system. The MoJ says that HMPPS has taken in-house the management of the prison case management system (Prison NOMIS) and the OASys risk and needs assessment tool to facilitate better data sharing. The much-derided NDelius is moving to the Cloud in the hope of improving its performance.

7: Supervision of short-term prisoners

As most readers will know, TR introduced mandatory supervision for everyone released from prison, greatly increasing the probation workload and driving up the prison recall rate. It was thought that the MoJ might remove the supervision requirement for those serving less than 12 months but the letter to the Committee says: “We are not considering repealing Section 2 of the Offender Rehabilitation Act at this time, but are considering ways of improving post-sentence supervision”.

8: Remote supervision

Both the Justice Committee and HMI Probation have strongly criticised the supervision of offenders remotely (generally by telephone). The MoJ says that the new contracts will “specify more clearly the minimum frequency and form of offender contact”.

9: Unpaid work

The MoJ acknowledges the problems with unpaid work and has pledged to tighten up CRC contracts to make sure more orders are completed on time and is consulting on how to encourage new providers to “develop relationships with local employers and enable offenders to gain skills required by the local labour market through unpaid work schemes”.

10: Universal credit

The Justice Committee raised the issue of prisoners not being able to apply for benefit before release and consequently having to wait 5 weeks to receive Universal Credit. The MoJ says it is working with the DWP to establish a system where released prisoners can receive an advance of a full month’s benefit – including the housing element.

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All Probation Posts are sponsored by Unilink

With over 20 years’ experience in the criminal justice sector, Unilink is a world leader in probation and community corrections software applications, as well as prisoner self-service, prisoner/case management and prisoner communications. Unilink’s integrated suite of products provide a complete digital solution enabling efficient running of prisons and probation. Underpinned by biometrics it integrates seamlessly to deliver security, efficiency and value – while being proven to help rehabilitate prisoners.

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