Embargo: 00.01 Friday 23 April 2021
The Future of Probation: Napo’s response to the Justice Select Committee report.
Napo has campaigned tirelessly over the last seven years to reunify probation following the disastrous privatisation of probation under the then Secretary of State Chris Grayling. We welcome the interest and scrutiny that the Justice Select Committee has given probation over the years and we welcome this report of their findings.
Whilst the report includes a number of key recommendations, the committee has chosen to focus on staff workloads and the number of cases that staff carry at any given time. However, Napo would urge caution on this. Probation cases vary in terms of complexity, needs, and risk management and in order for staff to do their job they need the room to focus on those complex cases. The ongoing issue of workloads in probation requires a far more holistic approach including providing the service with the resources it needs to employ the adequate number of staff, the pay and recognition staff deserve and flexibility to address workload and stress issues. An arbitrary number will become the bench mark and this may ultimately do more harm than good.
The Dynamic framework, the part of probation still being contracted out, has been badly affected by the pandemic in terms of delays to the timetable for bidding and awarding contracts. As such we are now under immense pressure to complete the process of transfer in a very short space of time. Those staff members transferring to these new providers under TUPE must be consulted with and provided with assurances, which are currently not forthcoming. It remains to be seen whether these new contracts will provide the promised involvement of specialist voluntary and third sector providers and there remain concerns that some of the mistakes of the past will be repeated.
Over all however, the report is welcome. Napo would like to thank the committee for its time but also to ask that it keeps probation under scrutiny going forward. We have a long way to go to effectively rebuild the profession, the service and staff morale. This will require further investment, a commitment by the Ministry of Justice to listen to the experts and follow the evidence.
Ian Lawrence, Napo General Secretary said: “The last seven years has taught us that you cannot have an effective probation service built on ad hoc, ideologically run policies. Probation is a critical part of the criminal justice system, of rehabilitating clients and protecting the public. It cannot do this effectively if it is starved of resources and under constant change. The Minister must now commit to providing the probation with adequate funding so that it can now begin to stabilise and return to being the most effective public service justice system.”