Pick up services such as peer and public mentoring
The probation service was part privatised in 2014, creating a system that was seen as struggling to deliver services such as mentoring.
Then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling implemented his Transforming Rehabilitation reforms in 2014. This saw the National Probation Service (NPS) deal with high risk offenders while sub-regional Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) were responsible for medium and low-risk offenders
This part privatisation model introduced an element of payment by results for CRCs but the reforms have been widely condemned as a failure, most notably by the Chief Probation Inspector Dame Glenys Stacey and the National Audit Office.
Upon re-election in 2016, the PCC highlighted concerns around the ability of the Dorset, Devon & Cornwall Community Rehabilitation Company (DDC CRC) to deliver effective mentoring services as part of a wider range of measures to reduce reoffending. He sought to work with the provider to address these, but ongoing difficulties, challenges and uncertainty over the probation arrangements locally and nationally have prevented any genuine progress in this area.
The DDC CRC received a damning inspection report in February 2019, and operators Working Links entered into administration shortly afterwards. Seetec, the existing Kent, Surrey and Sussex CRC provider, has since taken over its operation.
This followed the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) decision to terminate all current 21 CRC contracts two years early as part of a review of the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, looking to repackage the CRC contract areas and reviewing what future arrangements would look like.
A South West Regional Reducing Reoffending Board, chaired by Avon & Somerset PCC Sue Mountstevens was formed, and has been actively lobbying for full PCC engagement in the MoJ review. In particular, it sought to run a pilot regionally whereby all probation services be brought back under one single organisation, as is the agreed model for Wales.
In May 2019, the MoJ announced the supervision of all offenders on probation will be brought back into the public sector, thus reversing the 2014 changes. Under the new system, which will come into effect in December 2020, staff from the NPS, based in 11 new regions, will monitor released prisoners and those serving community sentences. Each area will then have a dedicated private or voluntary sector partner, responsible for unpaid work schemes, drug misuse programmes and training courses.
Meanwhile, the Chief Executive of Seetec wrote to the PCC in July 2019 to provide reassurance regarding the current CRC arrangements. Improvements include the implementation of a planned new operating model from November 2019, a recruitment drive to fill a number of existing staff vacancies, a proposed salary uplift and enhanced training for staff, and the refurbishment of unsuitable office accommodation.
The PCC will continue to play an active role on the regional board, seeking to influence the planned changes to probation service provision in the coming years. The PCC will also remain engaged with the CRC, primarily through the Dorset Criminal Justice Board, to ensure current arrangements operate as effectively as possible ahead of the future reforms.