Tuesday 14th May certainly was a busy day for probation followers. At 10am The Justice Select Committee heard evidence from Dame Glenys Stacey on her HMIP Annual Report. Bob Neill’s opening remarks left no doubt in anyone's mind where the committee stood in its view of TR. – “Irredeemably flawed”. This was further backed by Dame Glenys Stacey’s comments: “Deep systemic issues that cannot be resolved.”
Dame Stacey set out her views using a wide range of HMIP reports to support them. She made it clear that there needs to be urgent changes in policy and many of her suggestions fit firmly with Napo’s reunification campaign:
“A more unified unit would enable innovation”
A great deal of focus was given to the changes TR has created in probation. Dame Glenys called for a return to an evidence based approach to probation that has sadly been lost in the current model, a sentiment that will be shared by members.
“Complex social service like probation cannot be squeezed into contractual requirements.”
"The new model must have relationships with the client and 3rd sector services imbedded in probation".
Napo welcomes the Chief Inspector's her comments and her critical review of TR. It was clear that she felt saddened that probation had moved so far away from its core values and that it had lost its focus on what works. She was hugely critical of the split being based on risk, saying this lost sight of what was needed for an individual.
What was also very telling was that every member of the JSC was in agreement that TR had failed its intentions and objectives. When you have the HMIP, the Public Accounts Committee, the National Audit Office and the Justice Select Committee all writing reports independently and all coming to the same conclusion, you have to think they might be on to something, and the Minister will have to listen.
On Tuesday afternoon there was also an Opposition Debate focusing on Prisons and Probation.
Shadow Justice Secretary, Richard Burgon, opened the debate, saying: “The Opposition motion has one simple demand. It calls on the government to scrap its plans to sign new private probation contracts and contracts for new privately run prisons.”
Richard highlighted the valuable work that probation does. Below are some of the key extracts from his speech:
“Probation doesn’t get the attention of the prison service – but it should do. It manages a quarter of a million offenders in our communities.”
He referred to Dame Glenys Stacey’s report and conclusions and the issues she had flagged as deep rooted problems. He repeated her concerns that probation was so fundamentally flawed it cannot work in it’s current form, saying: “She concluded public ownership is a 'safer option' for core probation work, while improvements are not likely 'while probation remains subject to the pressures of commerce'."
Richard also took the opportunity to remind the House who was responsible for this disaster: “It could well be the current Transport Secretary’s most damaging failure – a high bar indeed”.
He went on to add: “The current Transport Secretary ignored all the warnings from Labour and others, including unions, probation trusts and the voluntary sector, of the obvious dangers of privatising”.
His final call to the Secretary of State was: “The Conservatives now need to drop their dangerous obsession with running probation for private profit and instead bring it back in house where it can focus on keeping the public safe”.
Although there were a wide range of MPs speaking to the motion it was disappointing that there were not that many in the House for the debate. An observation made by Victoria Prentis MP on the Conservative benches. David Hanson MP for Labour spoke passionately about probation. At one point he got quite heated stating that it should be Chris Grayling in the House answering these questions not David Gauke. It was clear that feelings were quite high in regard to the former Justice Secretary.
David Hanson said “ We had over 100 years of an effective probation service and in just 6 years we now need to rebuild it.”
There were wide calls for the Welsh model to be rolled out across England as well and whilst the new Minister Robert Buckland would not commit to a new approach at this stage, he did refer to the need for unity in probation. (Napo expects the MoJ announcement next week).
Bob Neill Chair of the Justice Select Committee made reference to his earlier comments about four separate reports all condemning TR and calling for an urgent change in policy. A comment that would have been heard loud and clear by the Justice Secretary.
Or watch on Parliament TV