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Probation reform welcomed

The Ministry of Justice is bringing all offender management under the National Probation Service (NPS), Justice Secretary David Gauke has said.

Under the new model, each NPS region will have a dedicated, private or voluntary sector ‘Innovation Partner’ – responsible for direct provision of unpaid work and accredited programmes. David Gauke said: “Delivering a stronger probation system, which commands the confidence of the courts and better protects the public, is a pillar of our reforms to focus on rehabilitation and cut reoffending.

“I want a smarter justice system that reduces repeat crime by providing robust community alternatives to ineffective short prison sentences – supporting offenders to turn away from crime for good. The model we are announcing today will harness the skills of private and voluntary providers and draw on the expertise of the NPS to boost rehabilitation, improve standards and ultimately increase public safety.”

The Government points to a move away from short custodial sentences, which evidence shows are often ineffective. The Ministry says that one consistent service delivering end-to-end offender management, sentencers can feel confident that alternatives to short custodial sentences will be delivered robustly.

As for a timetable, the Ministry of Justice says it will now run market and stakeholder engagement to finalise these proposals, for the new model to come into effect in spring 2021. Three launch events to discuss the reforms will run in the week commencing 27 May in London, Cardiff and Manchester.

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At the trade union UNISON national officer for probation Ben Priestley said: “Returning probation work to public ownership is a long-overdue step in the right direction. But UNISON, along with the Labour Group of Police and Crime Commissioners, is convinced probation services are best delivered locally, rather than from the one-size-fits-all centralised model which is the National Probation Service.

“The sooner probation is put back into local control to restore the confidence of staff, service users and the public, the better. The ruin caused by Chris Grayling’s botched reforms shows the service is just not safe in the hands of the Ministry of Justice.”

Richard Burgon MP, Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, said: “After putting public safety at risk and squandering hundreds of millions of pounds on trying to shore up failing private probation companies, the Tories have been forced to face reality and accept their probation model is irredeemably broken.

“The Tories didn’t want to make this U-turn and had been desperately trying to re-tender probation contracts to the private sector. It is right those plans have been dropped and that offender management is to be brought back in-house.

“Labour opposed this privatisation from the start and has led the way in calling for probation to brought fully back in house. We will press the government to ensure that probation is fully returned to being the award winning public service it was before this disastrous Tory privatisation.”


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