Private probation companies are performing worse than the government service.
A report released by the government’s probation watchdog has said that the publicly-owned probation services are better than those which former justice minister Chris Grayling outsourced to the private sector.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prison’s report said that the publicly-run National Probation Service (NPS) is “in general” better than privately-run Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs).
According to Justin Russell, Chief Inspector of Probation:
“In general, the quality of case supervision delivered by NPS staff was found to better than that delivered by their CRC equivalents – particularly in relation to the management of risk of harm to the public.”
“We found overall NPS performance to be strongest on leadership and on the range and quality of services that the NPS provides.”
However, Russell added that staffing was a problem in the NPS with high workloads caused by a shortage of staff, particularly in and around London.
Parts of the probation services were privatised under a much-criticised 2014 reform package led by former justice minister Chris Grayling.
While the public sector continued to manage the most challenging cases, private companies were tasked with managing 150,000 low to medium risk prisoners.
In May 2019, justice minister David Gauke pledged to partially reverse these privatisations but Gauke quit this role in July over Johnson’s no-deal Brexit plans and probation was not mentioned at all in the Conservative’s 2019 manifesto.
Responding to the watchdog’s report, Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Daisy Cooper said:
“This Conservative Government is failing in its most important duty: keeping people safe. Staff shortages in the Probation Service mean that high-risk individuals in our communities are not being properly supervised.
“This alarming report shows that ending private probation contracts and unifying the system, while clearly necessary, will not be nearly enough to fix the major problems in probation.
“Liberal Democrats are calling for a fundamental rethink about the way probation works. It must be far more coordinated and tailored to the individual, based on the risks they pose and the support they need to build a life free from crime.
“Probation and rehabilitation must also be properly funded. The Government needs to recognise that spending to prevent reoffending would mean fewer victims of crime and yield major benefits – for both society and the public finances.”