Probation Reform Programme
As readers will know, earlier this month Justice Secretary Robert Buckland announced the end of the government’s badly flawed Transforming Rehabilitation programme. Attributing the change in the MoJ’s plan to COVID-19, he said that offender management will return to the NPS in June 2021 and that the planned outsourcing of unpaid work and accredited programmes will be cancelled with responsibility for these also returned to the public probation service.
Yesterday, HMPPS published an update to the Draft Target Operating Model reflecting this decision to terminate the role of the private Community Rehabilitation Companies.
This post shares some of the key points in what we must now learn to call the Probation Reform Programme. The update restates the six key objectives for the new model:
- Better use of community sentences as an alternative to custody;
- Increased judicial confidence and influence in the court setting;
- A higher quality service;
- Increased collaborative working within our organisation and strengthening our work
- Developing our workforce;
- Greater flexibility enabling us to drive change across the system and meet changes in
demand where required.
There will be a transition period to the new model to embed the changes following implementation in June 2021 (for which HMPSS uses the jargon “Day 1”). They are taking a ‘lift and shift’ approach to the transfer of CRC arrangements as far as possible to minimise any further disruption caused by COVID-19 and to secure services for Day 1. HMPPS will then continue to refine the model after the transfer of key responsibilities to the NPS.
There will be a rationalisation of Rehabilitation Activity Requirements (RARs) currently delivered by CRCs:
“A national Effective Interventions Panel will be convened to assess and approve current Rehabilitation Activity Requirements (RARs) delivered by the CRCs in the 3 need areas (Attitudes, Thinking and Behaviour; Domestic Abuse and Emotional Management), for future in-house delivery by the NPS. RARs which do not meet these criteria will be rolled down.”
The Dynamic Framework (the mechanism for commissioning additional rehabilitative and resettlement services from external providers) will focus on ” those categories of need where existing provision is less readily available, or where we have specific needs for the probation system” in the period up to next June and will expand afterwards.
It is expected that most CRC staff are “likely to be in scope for transfer” – that is, they can move to the NPS if they want to.
Unpaid work will now be delivered by the NPS rather than the CRCs whose contracts end next June. However, no operational changes will be apparent on Day 1 as “existing CRC staff and delivery models will be moved into the NPS with the minimum disruption with ongoing work thereafter to embed and improve service delivery. HMPPS acknowledges that the planned changes and improvements to Unpaid Work will be delayed because of the current backlogs caused by COVID-19.
New Unpaid Work orders will aim to be started within 15 days rather than the 10 days stipulated in the previous TOM.
There will be a renewed focus on Employment, Training & Education activities to take up 20% of any Unpaid Worker order.
In order to facilitate the delivery of all accredited programmes by NPS staff, the organisation will need more accommodation which can deliver groupwork and ensures that the people required to attend the programmes do not have to travel more than 90 minutes each way (in my opinion, a singularly unambitious target. How many of us would expect to travel 3 hours for a 2 hour intervention?)
Along with service users, the group of people most disrupted by the failed (and ultimately pointless) Transforming Rehabilitation programme were those staff who were compelled to transfer out of the public sector to CRCs only to see their new employers put out of business. HMPPS says:
“we envisage that staff currently delivering equivalent services under CRCs will be assigned to transfer to the NPS … we will protect staff terms and conditions following transfer and most new staff compulsorily transferring into the NPS will be eligible to join the local government pension scheme post transfer.”
I have considerable sympathy for the civil servants who have been required to repeatedly re-configure the probation system in ways reminiscent of the Grand Old Duke of York who marched 10,000 men up to the top of the hill and marched them down again. It is clear that they will be very busy over the next 12 months.
In the next steps section, HMPPS commits to:
- Very quickly reprofile the probation reform programme to reflect the revised model. This will include reprioritising resource to those areas that will support a smooth transition and reviewing key milestones to June 2021.
- Publish an updated version of the Target Operating Model for the future of probation services early in 2021 to provide further detail on the new system.
- Develop a revised illustration of the changes to support engagement with colleagues and stakeholders to promote awareness and participation in the future changes.
Thanks to Marcus Winkler for use of the header image published on Unsplash.