Press Release: Probation has been failed: Justice Select Committee confirms union claims

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21 June 2018

Embargo: 00.01, 22 June 2018

Probation has been failed: Justice Select Committee confirms union claims

An inquiry into the delivery of Probation services by the Justice Select Committee has today confirmed that the service is not functioning. The Transforming Rehabilitation reforms introduced by the then Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling in 2014 have been highly criticised by Napo the trade union and professional association for probation staff as well as many stakeholders since its inception. The “reforms” saw 70% of the work done by the probation service being outsourced to eight new providers, which was supposed to open up the service to new innovative ideas from the private sector and, most importantly, allow greater access to the voluntary sector. The reforms also saw those sentenced to under 12 months custody receive statutory supervision for the first time. But they have been heavily criticised since the privatisation took place.

Now the Justice Select Committee, following an inquiry, has confirmed that the service does not work and that they “are unconvinced that Transforming Rehabilitation can deliver an effective or viable probation service”.  Napo welcomes the Committee’s findings which support all of the issues the union has been raising with Ministers, parliamentarians and the public for the last four years.

General Secretary Ian Lawrence said: “This is the most damning report into Chris Graylings failed and highly expensive social experiment. Our members have told us throughout the last four years that the TR project is a failure and cannot be rectified. Despite our interventions with Ministers, the Ministry of Justice has failed to take action and we now find ourselves in a desperate situation. The report’s conclusions provide overwhelming evidence that the Probation service must be restored back into public ownership.”

Key conclusions

The report states that the Ministry of Justice has failed to let the contracts properly and questions its ability to challenge overly optimistic bids by the providers. It goes on to say that despite good intentions the reforms have led to less involvement by the voluntary sector than ever before. It also states that staff morale is at an all-time low, something Napo has been very vocal about. This is due to high caseloads, ineffective ICT and delivery models, job cuts and uncertainty for staff, a failure to provide basic HR services such as pension payments by the Public probation sector and a nine year pay freeze.

Ian Lawrence said: “Our members have endured the biggest upheaval of a generation in probation. Their work has been de-professionalised and farmed off to private providers, they have seen colleagues made redundant, massive increases in their workloads and they have not had a pay rise in 3000 days. It’s hardly surprising that morale is low. They knew from the outset that these so-called reforms would not work. I commend probation staff in the public and private sectors for their commitment to try to deliver a service under these intolerable conditions and for continuing to fight for the service they are so passionate about. They can now see that their concerns have been vindicated as this report highlights all of the issues that Napo has been campaigning about but which have been denied by this Government.’’

The report recommends a full review into the delivery of probation services and its long-term future with a return deadline of February 2019. Napo believes that the government must look to withdraw contracts from failing CRC owners, improve standards for service users and be fully accountable to the taxpayer about the huge financial failings. The union also has major concerns about the news that some CRC providers are looking to make further staff cuts to try to minimise their losses. Napo will now be seeking an urgent meeting with the Secretary of State for Justice to urge some intervention before service levels in some parts of Probation fail beyond repair. Napo will be looking to have input into the review that has been ordered by the Committee and echoes the call for public consultation.

Media contacts:

Tania Bassett T: 07904 184195 E: tbassett@napo.org.uk