Napo, the trade union and professional association for probation staff is today celebrating a major turning point in its campaign to restore Probation to public sector ownership as the Secretary of State for Justice David Gauke, announces a fundamental change in government policy.
The statement by the Minister confirms a decision that will result in the eventual transfer of around 80% of probation work from that currently undertaken by the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCS) to the National Probation Service. The current CRC contracts with the Ministry of Justice are due to be terminated in December 2020.
In 2014, the then Secretary of State, Chris Grayling, privatised 80% of probation services under his ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ (TR) agenda. Eight organisations acquired 21 CRC contracts, which have been subject to a plethora of highly critical reports by Dame Glenys Stacey Chief Inspector of Probation. These reports, alongside the findings from the Justice Select and Public Accounts Committees, have repeatedly raised concerns about public safety, the quality of service being delivered and the ability of private sector providers to make a real difference to reoffending rates. In February this year three Working Links CRC contracts went into administration leaving debts of over £1.2 million to third sector contractors for which the MoJ has been directed to make reparation.
As the largest union representing probation staff, Napo has been campaigning for the CRCs to be returned to public ownership since day one. Voicing members’ feedback about the way the CRCs have managed their contracts, Ian Lawrence, General Secretary, said: “Since these so called reforms were first outlined Napo has raised serious concerns about this untested social experiment. The government went ahead and implemented a model that had been criticised across the board for being unfit for purpose. Our members predicted that the TR model was doomed to fail from the outset. We are pleased that this Minister has chosen to heed our concerns, examine the need for a different approach and take action.”
The new arrangements will replicate the Welsh model for probation that was announced earlier this year and which will be enacted by this December. This will see the majority of probation work involving clients under supervision transferred into public ownership by December next year, along with the staff involved. The government intends that the remaining intervention work, such as Community Payback and Accredited Programmes, will be put out to tender.
Ian Lawrence went on to say: “We are obviously disappointed that there is an intention for some probation work to remain in the private sector. Napo will continue to campaign to ensure that all of these services and our members who provide them, are eventually transferred back into the public sector and that we will step up our efforts to secure pay parity for all Probation staff. This victory has not given us all that we want and while this news will be welcomed by Napo members and other stakeholders, the campaign for public ownership is not over yet.”