The most significant reforms to tackling reoffending and managing offenders in the community for a generation have been announced by the Government. These proposals will make a significant change to the way in which probation services are delivered.
‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ describes the Government’s proposals for reforming the delivery of offender services in the community. The proposals set out in the consultation paper include:
- opening the majority of probation services to competition, with contracts awarded to a diverse mix of providers, including the private sector;
- commissioning to be managed centrally, with specifications informed by local delivery requirements within 16 regional contract package areas;
- private and voluntary organisations providing the offender management and rehabilitation for medium and low risk offenders;
- the extension of statutory supervision and rehabilitation for offenders serving short custodial sentences. These will be part of the commissioned contracts; and
- a payment by results approach.
The York and North Yorkshire Probation Trust is pleased to be given the opportunity to respond to this consultation document.
The Trust recognises the drivers behind the consultation of the continued need to deliver efficiencies and the stated position of opening up more in the delivery of community sentences to the private and voluntary sectors with the mechanism of payment by results.
The Trust believes that the current proposals for the delivery of substantial change in the way community sentences are managed need significant refinement to deliver such safely and to avoid fragmentation of services with its associated increase in risk to the community.
Particularly we believe greater thought needs to be given to the proposals for the management of risk which in our view are unsafely fragmented, our belief being that it is important to retain the delivery of offender management in a 2 single organisation, namely the public sector trust in order to achieve the required coherence to reduce reoffending and the importance of creating services in such a way that they are sensitive to local needs and circumstances and maintain the quality of delivery in accord with our locally well developed and effective partnership working.
The Trust, however, welcomes a number of the proposals contained within the consultation document:-
We were pleased to see the recognition that rehabilitation is an effective tool in reducing reoffending and will be interested to be involved in discussions on the content of this going forward.
We would strongly support the commitment to additional development opportunities for staff who will be working with the riskiest offenders and will make more detailed comment later in the document about the subject of the development of a professional qualification.
We welcome the proposal to extend supervision to those prisoners who are released having served under 12 months in custody. We look forward to more detailed discussions about the content of the work that is proposed with this group. At this stage the proposals in relation to mentoring require further development particularly in relation to the time scale for delivering this to capacity across the country.
A final but critical issue before we move to looking at the specific questions relates to time scale for delivery of change. The Secretary of State has indicated a target date for delivering change to be March 2015. In our view, this time scale cannot be achieved without undue risk to the delivery of services and the proper exercise of the duty of care for existing public sector employees.
We believe further thought must be given to what is the biggest change in the history of the probation service and a detailed project plan with achievable milestones needs to be set in place. We have a sound record of 3 change and delivering efficiencies and have shown resilience over the years, but to seek to deliver in such a limited time scale would clearly be unsafe and a major risk to ongoing services which are central to community safety.
A progressive timescale with clear milestones will inescapably extend considerably beyond that envisaged in 2015 and can only be fully determined and assessed when final details, subject to impact assessment, are produced.