Probation outsourcing model 'irredeemably flawed'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
28 March 2019

The outsourcing of probation services has been heavily criticised in an inspection report.

In the Report of the Chief Inspector of Probation, Dame Glenys Stacey said the service could not be reduced to a “set of contractual requirements” and a “nationwide approach was essential”.

“Probation is a complex social service, with professional judgement at its heart, but probation contracts treat it largely as a transactional business,” said Dame Glenys. “Consequently, there has been a deplorable diminution of the probation profession and a widespread move away from good probation practice.”

Dame Glenys described 2013 reforms of probation services, when 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies were created to provide services for low and medium-risk offenders, as “irredeemably flawed”.

“Above all, it has proved well-nigh impossible to reduce probation services to a set of contractual requirements. Professional probation work is so much more than simply a series of transactions, and when treated in that way it is distorted and diminished.

“With contracts now likely to end in December 2020, there is an opportunity to redesign the service.”

In a report earlier in March the National Audit Office said probation services were “not well suited” to a system of payment by results.

Dame Glenys called on the government to “consider carefully the future model for probation services”.

“Experience has shown that it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to reduce the probation service to a set of contractual requirements and measures, and equally difficult to deliver probation well without a nationwide approach to the essential underpinnings of the service. Significant flaws in the system have become increasingly apparent,” she said.

“It will be virtually impossible to deal with these issues if most probation supervision continues to be provided by different organisations, under contract.”

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