The Future for Probation After Transforming Rehabilitation

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2018 Police & Justice Service Group Conference
20 June 2018

Conference recognises that the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation reforms to the Probation Service have failed and that plans need to be put in place now to design a local, sustainable and democratically accountable service going forward.

Conference notes successive reports over the course of 2017/18 by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation, the Public Accounts Committee, the National Audit Office and the Justice Select Committee which show just how badly the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and the National Probation Service (NPS) are operating. In recognising this, Conference makes clear that the failure of Transforming Rehabilitation is not the fault of our members who struggle every day against enormous odds to deliver essential services to clients and to communities. The fault of Transforming Rehabilitation lies squarely at the door of the former Justice Secretary and those Ministry of Justice officials who drove through the reforms against all advice and reasoning at the time.

In 2014/15 the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) broke up and part privatised the probation service in England and Wales leading to a disastrous fall in performance and an increase in risk to communities.

According to Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation, many of the private community rehabilitation companies are no longer providing effective levels of supervision or community protection. Offenders are simply not being rehabilitated and communities are being put at risk.

The NPS, although not performing as badly as the CRCs, is yet to become a high performing organisation and its aim to merge significant probation functions into the Prison Service, will destroy the distinct values and strengths of probation. The NPS has been unable to provide adequate internal corporate services, cannot pay its staff correctly or on time, has been referred to the Pensions Regulator for pension maladministration and cannot connect with local justice partners on account of its remote central command and control ethos.

Despite the failure of its probation reforms, in March 2018 the MOJ carried out a further controversial outsourcing and privatised night waking supervision in National Probation Service hostels. As predicted by UNISON and others, this contract has not been a success and is putting residents, staff and communities at risk. Conference therefore believes that the future of probation is simply not safe in the hands of Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service or the MOJ.

Conference acknowledges that we agreed at our Conference last year to campaign for local democratic control of probation across England and Wales and welcomes the work which UNISON has done in the interim to help build a consensus among key stakeholders on the need for local democratic oversight of a reformed Probation Service.

Conference therefore asks the Service Group Executive to campaign for:

1)The dismantling of the whole failed Transforming Rehabilitation project;

2)The re-unification of the Probation Service;

3)The delegating of political control/commissioning of probation from the Ministry of Justice/Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service to Police and Crime Commissioners, or elected Mayors, at local level;

4)Separate discussions to take place in relation to the appropriate democratic oversight of probation in Cymru/Wales;

5)The re-creation of local public sector delivery bodies for probation, first by returning the CRCs to public ownership and then by assimilating the current work of the NPS into the new local delivery bodies;

6)The creation of the new local delivery bodies for probation to be the subject of consultation with probation members, activists and branches;

7)The protection of job security and pay and conditions of staff working for the CRCs and the NPS during and after the end of Transforming Rehabilitation and during and after the creation of the new local delivery bodies, subject to consultation with probation members, activists and branches;

8)New national collective bargaining machinery to support staff in the new delivery model;

9)Political support for our proposals for the future of probation via UNISON’s political funds.