End of probation outsourcing announced

30 June 2021

Probation services in the UK are to return to full public ownership after an outsourcing model was deemed unsuccessful.

Justice secretary Robert Buckland told the House of Commons a unified model proposed by the government last year would ensure “the best use of the talents and skills in the public, private and voluntary sectors”.

Probation services are currently split between the National Probation Service (NPS), supervising high-risk offenders, and private sector Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) supervising low and medium-risk offenders.

Buckland said under a unified model responsibility for supervision of all offenders would transfer to the NPS, while each NPS region will have a private sector partner providing some services such as unpaid work placements and behavioural change programmes.

The changes would “end the competitive process for probation delivery partners”, Buckland said.

“Given the significant operational impact that Covid-19 has already had and the uncertainty it brings for the future, it is right that we should reassess our plans,” he said.

“The disruption caused by Covid-19 makes delivery of other parts of our plans considerably more complex, and looking ahead, it is vital for public and judicial confidence that we have the flexibility to deliver a national response to any future challenges that Covid-19 presents.”

The UK government drew up proposals to scrap the outsourcing of probation services following heavy criticism of the system.

The system of CRCs, 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.

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