Government accused of failing to fix a broken system
UK to end private probation deal at cost of £170 million
The UK government is to terminate agreements with some private contractors after the firms failed to effectively monitor offenders on probation. Among the firms losing work was industry-giant Sodexo, which has offices in the Middle East.
Initially the contracts were introduced three years ago and intended to run into 2022, but will now be curtailed in 2020. Private firms will still be involved in probation but ministers are proposing further reforms to the system as criminal monitoring will be taken back under public management in Wales but not in England, where fresh contracts will introduce minimum standards for supervision, community sentences and rehabilitation services.
Proposals aim to 21 community rehabilitation companies slashed to 11 by 2020. The initiative is expected to cost tr £170 million.
Sodexo managed facility HMP Northumberland was featured in BBC Panorama last year, highlighting extensive mismanagement issues related to drug abuse.
Until then, the companies will be given an extra £170 million by the government to improve resettlement services for offenders leaving prison and to raise standards. David Gauke, the justice minister, said he wanted to create a “probation service that protects the public, commands the confidence of the courts and ultimately reduces reoffending”.
“We are taking decisive action now to improve the delivery of probation services in England and Wales. I am confident that the proposals set out in this consultation will play a major role in helping us to achieve this aim,” he added.
Richard Burgon MP, the Labour Party’s shadow justice minister, said the programme amounted to an “ideological experiment that has been a costly failure”.
“This decision to throw more good money after bad and the government’s recommitment to a privately-run probation service shows that the Conservatives have run out of all ideas on how to fix their broken system,” he added. “Delaying this announcement until parliament closed for the summer is a tacit admission by the government that its probation policies can’t withstand the slightest scrutiny.”
The news comes after the government already previously agreed to give the community rehabilitation companies £342 million for extra funding amid concerns the firms were failing. The government insisted it has actually saved the taxpayer some £300m because it initially had budgeted to pay firms £2.5bn by 2020 and had only spent £2.2bn.
Napo, the trade union for UK probation service workers slammed what it believed was a deliberate attempt by government to avoid parliamentary scrutiny by launching its short eight-week consultation during summer recess.
“It is clear they are wedded to a failed and unworkable ideology, and cannot accept the undeniable fact that justice and public safety cannot be subject to the rule of supply and demand,” said Napo General Secretary, Ian Lawrence.