Probation service returns to public control seven years after Chris Grayling’s ‘deeply flawed’ reforms as watchdog warns more funding is needed

  • Then-Justice Sec Chris Grayling introduced £3.7billion probation reform in 2014
  • The controversial reforms saw private companies take control of some services 
  • However, probation services have now been taken back under public control  

The probation service has returned to public control just seven years after Chris Grayling’s controversial and ‘deeply flawed’ reforms saw it semi-privatised. 

Then-Justice Secretary Grayling’s 2014 reforms saw private companies take charge of the management of low-risk and medium-risk offenders. 

However, the move led to ‘poor quality supervision’ of offenders, with the National Probation Service adding that re-offending rates had not been cut. 

Now, Justin Russell, chief inspector of probation, has called for more funding for the sector and warned that reversing the Grayling reforms is just one of the many changes need to probation services. 

Mr Russell said: ‘There are no magic bullets here: structural change needs to be backed by sustained investment for there to be true improvement.’

Chris Grayling’s 2014 reforms saw private companies take charge of the management of low-risk and medium-risk offenders

He also told the Times: ‘Squeezed budgets have meant falling probation officer numbers; staff under relentless pressure and unacceptably high caseloads. 

‘This has inevitably resulted in poorer quality supervision, with over half of the cases we inspected in the private sector probation companies being unsatisfactory on some key aspect of quality.’

The National Probation Service will now take over the management of low and medium-risk cases.

Plans to allow private companies to bid for behaviour programmes and unpaid work schemes for offenders have also been scrapped.

The reforms will affect more than 220,000 people on probation and 16,000 probation staff across England and Wales.

The National Probation Service will now take over the management of low and medium-risk cases

Under the £3.7billion Transforming Rehabilitation strategy, Grayling scrapped the 35 probation trusts in England and Wales and replaced them with a service split between 21 privately run community rehabilitation companies covering different regions and the new National Probation Service. 

Private companies were invited to bid for million pound contracts to run the companies overseeing offenders on probation.  

At the time, there were fears about potential issues the system could cause, with probation staff resigning in protest.  

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