On 12 March 2014, the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee heard evidence from senior public officials on the Government’s Transforming Rehabilitation probation reforms.
Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) challenged senior officials from the Ministry of Justice and National Offender Management Service over the extent of savings that the planned restructuring of probation services would likely achieve.
The Government has based its rationale for reforming probation service delivery on the premise that their anticipated savings would allow, within today’s allocated probation budget of £850mn, for the addition of the 56,000 short-term custodial cases of offenders who currently receive no probation supervision following release. This would amount to expanding the probation caseload by around a quarter within existing budgets.
However, the PAC questioned whether the splitting of functions between privately owned Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and the National Probation Service (NPS) would not instead lead to additional costs through the need to create new processes of communication between the two sorts of organisation, and duplicative layers of bureaucracy. In comparison under the existing Probation Trust structure, all offender management processes occur under ‘one roof.’ The National Audit Office in a recent report found the current landscape of probation service delivery efficient and effective.
The PAC highlighted that the Ministry of Justice has given no figure or estimate for what they anticipate the cost of absorbing the 56,000 short-term custodial cases would be, nor the anticipated volume of cases which would, under the new operating processes, transfer between the CRC and NPS in the event of an increase in risk profile or suspected breach of conditions.
It also emerged that the Ministry of Justice has already spent £8mn in private consultancy fees linked to the Transforming Rehabilitation reform programme.
You can watch the PAC evidence session again here.