Back before the government’s woeful justice reforms, probation trusts were able to develop local links with businesses, the community and had knowledge of the area and people living there.
These links were critical for finding unpaid work placements and projects, risk management in terms of knowing the geography and population, local resources such as women’s centres and having close links with other agencies such as the police and social services. Partnership working ensured clients had access to a wide range of providers and services.
Like so many other things, this was destroyed when TR came into force.
For starters, the 21 CRC areas are no longer coterminous with police forces. Professional relationships have suffered as a result and identifying responsible lead agencies becoming difficult. You don’t have to try hard to imagine what happens when these relationships break down, particularly when working with clients such as sex offenders.
Local services for local people is essential if the service is to meet the needs of the community. CRCs – in an effort to increase their income streams – are opting to do all the work themselves, effectively squeezing out many small third sector, charities and private sector organisations.
Things are not tremendously better in the NPS either. Paralysed by bureaucracy, it too finds it difficult to respond to local needs.
On top of everything else, relationships with the courts have also taken a nose dive. CRC staff are banned from having direct contact with the courts. Despite the best effort of probation court staff, the quality of information provided to the courts has deteriorated, which understandably undermines the confidence of the sentencers.
As predicted by Napo, lines of accountability have also become fragmented and blurred, and have lost their local base. The NPS is accountable to parliament, while the CRCs are accountable to the NPS via opaque contract management arrangements and CRCs control local commissioning via their TR contract monopoly.
Nobody is locally accountable for the community’s probation services, and there is no scope for community influence or input into priority spending and/or commissioning of support services to help deliver training, housing, additional drug and alcohol programmes, etc.
Many CRC providers now have their leadership teams based in their parent company organisations, which has led to reduced confidence in the whole system.
One of the biggest of these, Working Links (responsible for 3 CRCs including the whole of Wales) has collapsed and its CRCs have been taken over by Kent, Surrey, Sussex CRC (SEETEC). While Interserve Justice (which runs 5 CRCs - spread out across the country) is currently under administration.
The report by the Chief Inspector of Probation, published in March 2019, found:
- “The operating model does not provide a national strategy for the sufficient provision of services locally”.
- “Probation work that is integrated, professional and delivered as locally as possible is most likely to turn around the lives of offenders.”
- “To provide an integrated service, a carefully considered commissioning strategy is needed. Accredited programmes and other valued interventions should be routinely available locally, and accessed readily by all probation professionals, to match need.”
- “Good working relationships and strategic partnerships with local authorities, health services and other public authorities are necessary to begin to meet these basic needs.”
A local, publically owned service is essential to provide genuine local accountability, restore confidence among sentencers and partner agencies and to engage effectively with third sector organisations to meet the needs of clients and local communities.
Napo will be hosting a drop-in session for MPs on 1st of May to put this, and seven other reasons to reunify the probation service to MPs.
If you haven’t already done so, complete the postcard and send it back to your local MP encouraging them to join the fight to make sure the probation service is able to rehabilitate clients, keep the public safe and to protect your profession.
Need any materials to be a part of the campaign? Email firstname.lastname@example.org