16 May 2019
OFFENDER MANAGEMENT TO RETURN TO PUBLIC SECTOR
Today the government has announced that all offender management work currently carried out by the CRCs will return to the public sector when the CRC contracts come to an end in the spring of 2021. The CRC contracts were due to come to an end in December 2020, but have been extended to allow for the government’s plans for probation to be put in place.
But unpaid work, accredited programmes and other rehabilitative interventions and resettlement services, currently provided by the CRCs, will not transfer to the NPS. They will be offered to the private and voluntary sector in a new bidding process.
This is the same model of delivery which has already been proposed for Wales and which is already being put into place in that country.
Today’s announcement is an admission at last from the government that Chris Grayling’s botched TR reforms have failed. No one in the world of probation believed that TR would ever work, and so it proved right from the start. It is shameful that it took four and half years of pain, aggravation and heartbreak before Ministers acted. Probation has been broken and it will take a long time, and a lot of money, to fix.
The plans are a step in the right direction, because they do bring most CRC work back into the public sector, but they are also flawed in a number of key respects:
- Unpaid work, programmes and interventions are to stay out in the private/voluntary sector. Many CRCs have struggled to provide these services and there is little evidence that a market exists to deliver them. UNISON wants all this work to come into the NPS. Probation needs to be re-unified; it cannot work if the split in delivery carries on into the future. We will campaign for full re-unification.
- The National Probation Service has yet to prove itself. Working for the NPS has not always been a happy experience for many staff and Probation has been the poor relation to the Prison Service inside HMPPS. In particular the NPS has:
- forced a one-size fits all probation model across England and Wales
- downgraded key occupations such as victim liaison officers, residential workers, business managers, enforcement officers etc
- suffered from on-going big staff shortages in key operational areas
- 1,000 agency staff to deliver work it cannot recruit into
- privatised night waking cover in approved premises with disastrous consequences
- put prison governors in charge of probation officers in prison
- not been able to pay staff properly since it was created as a result of its privatised payroll provider getting things wrong on an on-going basis
UNISON has had its work cut out in representing members in the NPS and the organisation is going to have to improve considerably if it is to succeed in taking on all offender management work from the CRCs.
- UNISON’s ‘Let’s Fix Probation’ campaign argues that all probation work should be brought back under public ownership, not as part of the NPS, but via the re-creation of Local Probation Services under local democratic control and local management. We will continue to make this case. Probation can only function properly as a unified and local service, delivered and managed in the public sector, free from the interference of the MOJ, or HMPPS.
Chris Grayling’s botched TR reforms show that Probation is just not safe in MoJ hands.
For our members, dedicated and hard working staff, today’s announcement means even more change on top of what have been the most difficult years in Probation history. More than anything UNISON hopes that the government has learnt that there is a real human cost to their experimenting. Listening to practitioners and service users will be more important than ever as we move to the next set of reforms.
Today’s announcement means that there is going to be further upheaval and change in the Probation Service. At a time like this you need a strong union to look after your job security and pay and conditions.
UNISON has already submitted a new Staff Transfer and Protections Agreement to the NPS to protect both CRC and NPS staff interests in the big changes to come. UNISON’s aim is to protect your job and your livelihood in the transfer processes which will result from the government announcement. If you are not already a trade union member in the CRCs or in the NPS, now is the time to join UNISON.