Lord Willy Bach receiving an Honorary Doctorate in Law from the Open University in 2019
At last, the Government has listened and decided to restore probation services in England and Wales to public ownership.
This is a major U-turn on the 2014 decision to privatise the probation service and create 21 separate private companies with a patchwork of responsibility for the supervision of more than 100,000 low and medium-risk offenders.
The announcement essentially restores the system that existed prior to the intervention of the then Conservative Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling.
Grayling’s measures were widely opposed by experienced criminal justice professionals and have been subject to ongoing criticism by Parliament and HM Inspector of Probation.
Whilst I welcome the decision, it should never have been necessary in the first place. Anyone with a modicum of knowledge of the criminal justice system could see that Mr Grayling’s reforms were doomed to fail. The last six years have been a waste of effort, time, and money.
The National Probation Service (NPS) will now be reconfigured to take full responsibility for sentence management, interventions, and programme delivery. At some point in the future it will commission not for profit providers to secure additional support services for offenders.
As David Lammy points out, since the reforms were introduced reoffending rates have climbed up to 32%. People have slipped through the net, not receiving the support they need, and the public has been let down very badly by a policy change that was driven by ideology rather than common sense.
As PCC I have strongly supported the work by Leicestershire Cares to help ex-offenders into work. This is a great project that gives people a second chance, through the opportunity of employment, to break the cycle of offending and helps them to increase their skills, confidence and future employability.
But there is so much more to be done.
As a former minister at the Ministry of Justice, I am the first to admit that the previous arrangements weren’t perfect, but rather than improve matters, the government succeeded in completely destroying the system.
It’s critical that we now start to rebuild confidence in the probation system. An effective and responsive probation system makes a vital contribution to the bigger picture of crime prevention and the task of keeping our diverse communities safe in Leicestershire.
The more local the arrangements, the more likely they are to succeed. Police and Crime Commissioners and our partners should play a central role in commissioning effective services that will result in lower reoffending rates.
This can only be good news for everyone.
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Posted on Friday 12th June 2020