21 August 2006 | Paul Snell
The probation service in England and Wales must quadruple the work it contracts out to the private and voluntary sector by April 2008, according to a Home Office report. Improving Prison and Probation Services: Public Value Partnerships
published last week by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), which includes all prison and probation services, said: "Competition for new prison contracts has already had a major effect on driving up standards across the custodial sector. We want to build on and extend this approach to the probation service to raise standards there."
Probation boards currently contract out around 2.5 per cent of their annual spend to the private and voluntary sectors. NOMS has set a target for local probation areas to double this to 5 per cent by April 2007, and double it again to 10 per cent by April 2008.
According to the report, one quarter of NOMS' £800 million spend currently goes to private-sector and non-profit providers in areas such as building prisons and prisoner escort services.
It said NOMS also plans to introduce measures to make the work more attractive to service suppliers. These include reducing barriers to entry and having standard contract terms.