The UK government has announced proposals to scrap the outsourcing of probation services following heavy criticism of the system.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said under the plans all offender management would be brought under the National Probation Service from 2021 in England and by the end of 2019 in Wales.
The MoJ said: “By having one consistent service delivering end-to-end offender management, sentencers can feel confident that alternatives to ineffective short custodial sentences will be delivered robustly.”
The system of Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) running probation services for low and medium-risk offenders, introduced by Chris Grayling in 2014, has been described as “irredeemably flawed”. The Public Accounts Committee criticised its payment by results model and said efforts to stabilise contracts with CRCs would cost taxpayers an additional £467m.
Under the new model announced by justice secretary David Gauke, the public sector National Procurement Service (NPS), which previously ran services for high-risk offenders, will take over all work, separated into 11 regions across England and Wales.
Each NPS region will have a private or voluntary sector “innovation partner”, responsible for provision of unpaid work and accredited programmes to help the NPS “identify, encourage and deliver greater innovation”.
Gauke said: “The model we are announcing today will harness the skills of private and voluntary providers and draw on the expertise of the NPS to boost rehabilitation, improve standards and ultimately increase public safety.”
A consultation period will follow to finalise the plans.
Chair of the PAC Meg Hillier said: “The government has finally recognised the failure of the Grayling changes to probation services.
“It was always a risky venture and the PAC has repeatedly highlighted the flaws in the model, the management of the contracts and the lack of resilience. It’s heartening to hear the secretary of state speak about more work with specialist providers including in the voluntary sector. We highlighted this loss of expertise as one of our concerns about the system.”
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