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News Archives: Index

October 7, 2010: Probation Set For Industrial Action

October 5, 2010: Turning Prisoners Into Taxpayers

October 4, 2010: Murder Changes Now In Force

September 20, 2010: Probation Programmes Face Cuts

August 24, 2010: Victorian Poor Law Records Online

August 10, 2010: Justice Job Cuts

July 28, 2010: Prison Violence Growing

July 22, 2010: Police Numbers: Latest Figures

July 22, 2010: New Jurisdiction Rules

July 16, 2010: CCJS On Prison And Probation Spending Under Labour

July 15, 2010: Latest Statistics On Violent And Sexual Crime

July 15, 2010: Latest National Crime Figures

July 15, 2010: New Chief Prisons Inspector

July 14, 2010: Hard Times Ahead For Prisons: Anne Owers

July 14, 2010: Prison Does Not Work: Ken Clarke

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform: Sentencing and Rehabilitation

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

July 12, 2010: What Price Public Protection, Asks Probation Chief Inspector

July 12, 2010: NOMS has failed, says Napo

July 10, 2010: IPCC To Investigate Death of Raoul Moat

July 9, 2010: Women In Prison: New Report

July 9, 2009: Unjust Deserts: Imprisonment for Public Protection

July 8, 2010: Police Search Powers Change

July 7, 2010: Make 'Legal High' Illegal, Says ACMD

July 2, 2010: Failing Children In Prison

July 2, 2010: Police Buried Under a Blizzard of Guidance: HMIC

July 1, 2010: Freedom To Change The Law?

June 30, 2010: A New Outlook On Penal Reform?

June 30, 2010: Revolving Door Of Offending Must Stop, Says Clarke

June 30, 2010: Ken Clarke: Speech on Criminal Justice Reform

June 29, 2010: No More Police Targets

June 26, 2010: Family Intervention Projects Questioned

June 25, 2010: Cutting Criminal Justice

June 24, 2010: Napo on Sex Offenders Report

June 23, 2010: Closing Courts: The Cuts Begin

June 23, 2010: Strategy To Tackle Gangs

June 15, 2010: Courts and Mentally Disordered Offenders

June 8, 2010: Working With Muslims in Prison

June 1, 2010: Your Chance To Nominate a QC

October 20, 2005: Probation: 'Vibrant Mixed Economy' or Privatisation?

The Government has now published its consultation paper on the future of probation in England and Wales, titled “Restructuring Probation to Reduce Re-Offending”. The consultation paper proposes giving the Home Secretary the statutory duty:

“to make arrangements with others to provide probation services; and to create new bodies, replacing local probation boards, with who he may contract.”

Probation boards currently have an exclusive statutory duty to provide probation services. The measures outlined in the consultation paper would transfer this duty to the Home Secretary, who would then task national and regional offender managers to contract with a range of providers (public, private or voluntary and community) to supply probation services. This would allow managers to contract for services covering both prison and probation, as well as across geographical boundaries.

Probation boards would be replaced by probation trusts. They will no longer include judges in their membership. It is also accepted that contestability could result a probation trust ceasing to exist. In terms of the speed of these developments, changes to the provision of probation services would require changes to primary legislation which the Government will bring forward as soon as Parliamentary time allows. If the NOMS Bill receives Royal Assent by November 2006, these changes could be with us by April 2007.

The Government argues that it wishes to seek the best possible providers for probation services in each local area, be that public, private, or in the voluntary and community sector. The Government is committed to what it defines as:

“the creation of a vibrant mixed economy in the provision of offender management services”.

According to Home Office Minister Baroness Scotland:

"… there is still more to be done in driving up standards right across the country and in improving value for money. This is not about cost-cutting, privatisation or changing staff. It is about making sure we have the very best service possible, from the best provider - be that public, private, or in the voluntary and community sector. The Probation Service has achieved a great deal, but now is the time to examine the organisation and management of this vital service to help make sure we meet our goal of cutting re-offending and creating safer communities."

The Government intends to introduce commissioning and contestability into the provision of probation services. Commissioning involves deciding what services are needed and in what form, and contracting for their delivery. Contestability involves challenging the existing provider to show they are continuing to offer quality and value for money - and if they are not then other providers have the opportunity to show what they could deliver. From the Home Office perspective, the options are not just private or public, the Government is committed to increasing the role of the voluntary and community sector in providing offender management services.

Probation union Napo argues the consultation is not about a more effective probation service, but in about furthering a government crusade to increase the private sector’s role across public services. Napo states that the changes introduced by the paper, if implemented:

“would wipe away nearly 100 years of the history of the Probation Service”.

The union further contends that the proposals will "de-professionalise, deskill and destabilise the probation service". Napo general secretary Judy McKnight states the consultation:

  • “provides no business case to justify its unsubstantiated claim that these proposals will reduce re-offending;
  • does not recognise that the Probation Service is currently achieving record levels of performance;
  • would do away completely with the local element currently provided by Probation Boards;
  • would threaten the future of the probation training qualification;
  • would mean that probation staff would face the permanent threat of privatisation;
  • would threaten the very existence of a public Probation Service;
  • does not meet the Cabinet Office Code of Practice on Consultation. The substantive proposals in respect of the introduction of contestability and thereby privatisation into our work have never been and are still not open for consultation. This paper consults on points of detail around the edges and, even then, only provides for 9 weeks as opposed to the recommended 12 weeks for responses to be made.”