Parliament to discuss the future of Probation, as serious concerns over Transforming Rehabilitation are voiced

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In an opposition debate scheduled for this afternoon (30 October 2013) the House of Commons will consider the future of the probation service in light of the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation reform plans.

The proposed oposition motion and the Government’s amendment can be viewed here ahead of the debate: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201314/cmagenda/ob131030.htm

The Probation Chiefs Association (PCA) have raised significant concerns over the safety of the reform plans, the untested nature and speed of transition, the disruption to effective local partnerships and uncertainties over how professional development and skills will be maintained in the future.

A detailed parliamentary briefing prepared by the PCA has been circulated to MPs and stakeholders ahead of the House of Commons debate, a copy of which can be viewed here
PCA briefings on Transforming Rehabilitation

The House of Commons debate comes in the immediate context of a joint letter published by Police & Crime Commissioners outlining their strong concerns over the Transforming Rehabilitation programme.  In a separate article on the front page of yesterday’s Guardian newspaper it was reported that Chairs of Probation Trusts have written to the Secretary of State over the public safety risks presented by the scale and pace of transition.

View the PCC letter here.. http://www.gmpcc.org.uk/news/probation-privatisation-risks-public-safety-commissioners-warn/
View the Guardian article here.. http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/28/chris-grayling-delay-probation-service-privatisation

The National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) have voted to take strike action on the 5-6 November over the terms being imposed on probation staff by the Transforming Rehabilitation programme. 84.4% of NAPO’s members supported strike action.

For all PCA media enquiries please call 020 3657 7844

Government document highlights progress of Probation Trusts in improving rehabilitative services for women

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The Government has today published a document taking ‘stock of women’s services for offenders in the community, which coincides with announcements of a ‘new approach to female offenders’. The stocktake assesses the impact of an additional £3.78mn given to Probation Trusts in April 2013 specifically to enable them to enhance the provision of services they commission or deliver to promote the rehabilitation of female offenders. In its summary findings the Government concludes (p9-8)

  • “Probation Trusts have demonstrated a firm commitment to developing and improving services for female offenders in the community and to their responsibilities to female offenders arising from the equalities legislation.
  • All Probation Trusts have identifiable resources for specific services for female offenders in the community, leading to greater equality of access to specialised services for female offenders nationally.
  • Through the Trust contract and partnership arrangements, £5.8 million is being spent in total on specific services for female offenders – well above the £3.8 million additional allocation and the early estimate of the 4.3 million.
  • There is a diverse delivery landscape which reflects local need.
  • Many Probation Trusts have worked collaboratively with partners to build on and expand existing services for female offenders in the community, sharing resources and premises, potentially leading to a wider range of efficient and sustainable services. Examples include the use of children’s centres, women’s centres and community centres.
  • Probation Trusts have innovated and new services will be delivered. Examples include a new residential service in West Mercia, partnership with a social enterprise in York and provision for women serving less than 12 months in custody. There are many more examples.
  • There has been an expansion in mentoring services for female offenders consistent with the Ministry of Justice’s key priority to provide better life-management for female offenders.
  • Most Probation Trusts had robust arrangements in place for monitoring performance of services locally. Methods used to evaluate success varied but included a range of appropriate measures.
  • Probation Trusts had taken into account the findings of the Corston Report and other relevant reports to develop new services. There was a strong commitment to service improvement and to sharing best practice.
  • New Services have been located in a sentencing framework to enable report writers to provide clear sentencing options to the Judiciary.”

The Government’s document demonstrates that Probation Trusts are committed and are taking a lead at a local level to improving rehabilitative services for female offenders and are making significant improvements. The PCA have significant concerns that the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda will disrupt local level partnership work and the demonstrated progress which Probation Trusts are currently making with working with female offenders.

House of Lords debate (16th October) discusses the reorganisation of probation services

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Yesterday evening (16 October) the House of Lords discussed the Government’s proposed reorganisation of the probation service in a short debate tabled by Lord Marks QC of Henley on Thames. Significant concerns over the approach being taken by Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) were recurrent throughout the debate, including:

-Increased risks to public safety through fragmenting offender management, ongoing risk assessment, service delivery, and enforcement functions across the new National Probation Service (NPS) and contracted providers. The complexity of the proposed TR operating system, where transfers of case oversight and responsibility between the contracted providers and NPS are to occur frequently, presents risks for the continuity of probation supervision, and creating communication gaps and delay in responding to changes in risk.

-The scale and pace of implementing the TR programme; there were concerns that the wholesale restructuring of probation services was being undertaken without any prior piloting, and that there would be little time for testing the mechanics of the new operating system before it is scheduled under the Government’s current timetable to ‘go live’ on the 1 April 2014.

Sustaining professional skills, staff and expertise post transition, and ensuring the quality of future probation services. The high quality of services and professionalism of the staff under existing Probation Trusts was acknowledged throughout the debate. Concerns were raised that staff and expertise will be lost through the upheaval, and whether new contracted providers would be held to account for the quality of the services which they provide.

The debate drew on the work of the PCA and Probation Association (PA), and other stakeholders, to bring about the creation of Probation Institute:

Lord Marks stated “one hopeful development is the proposed establishment by the Probation Association and the Probation Chiefs Association, with government approval, of an institute to be known as the “Probation Institute”. Such an institute could offer accreditation of courses and qualifications. It could maintain a register of qualified probation officers, and could ultimately take on the role of monitoring and enforcing professional performance standards. That would assist providers when recruiting, and probation officers when seeking new employment. The institute could also act as an information exchange on innovation and best practice and would be a valuable resource if it did so. The proposed institute might one day apply for charter status, and would establish probation officers as a strong and independent profession. In a world of diverse new providers, this would be a significant benefit.”

Lord Ahmed of Wimbledon, acting as Justice spokesman for the Government responded: “My noble friend Lord Marks also mentioned the idea of some kind of chartered institute of probation officers. I assure all noble Lords that this is an idea that the Government are taking forward and looking at seriously. We are working with interested parties across the board to develop a proposal for a Probation Institute that would promote the development of innovation and the sharing of good practice in the new system.”

Full Hansard of the House of Lords debate on probation reorganisation (16 October) can be found here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201314/ldhansrd/lhan53.pdf  (page 606)

United Kingdom hosts first ever World Congress on Probation, 9-10 October 2013

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The first ever World Congress on Probation begins tomorrow (9-10 October 2013) in London. Over 320 delegates from across 55 different countries will come together to share their knowledge and experience on probation practice.

The PCA has worked closely with the European Organisation for Probation (CEP) to help bring about the World Congress on Probation. We are proud that the first ever event of this kind is being held in the United Kingdom, which is testament to the high level of international recognition for the professionalism of probation services in our country.

International delegates will be given the opportunity to attend parallel workshop sessions, many of which will be led by probation professionals from England & Wales. The PCA Public Protection group will facilitate a session on managing risk, drawing on practice from Staffordshire & W Midlands Probation Trust and Lancashire Probation Trust. The Merseyside Resettle Service will contribute to a session on tackling offender health needs. West Yorkshire Probation Trust will illustrate their innovative work in engaging service users to support desistance. Our international guests have also been given the opportunity to spend a day visiting London Probation Trust.

The programme and guest speakers for the World Congress on Probation can viewed here. Regular updates on twitter can be followed on #WCP13

PCA respond to Sentencing Council’s ‘Fraud, Bribery and Money Laundering Offences Guideline Consultation’

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The Probation Chiefs Association (PCA) represents the senior leadership of the Probation Service.  As such the PCA seeks to comment on issues which may impact on the work or role of the Probation Service and welcomes the opportunity, therefore, to respond to the Sentencing Council’s “Fraud, Bribery And Money Laundering Offences Guideline Consultation”.

Our response addresses each of the consultation questions as summarised in Annex A of the consultation document.