Report on Probation Services comes back with some very good results, although some areas need much more work than others.
The analysis will be used as an assessment when considering the proposals to privately manage much of the probation services, and calls in to question why there should be such a dramatic change when many of the trusts are working to a good standard with good results.
The report, Aggregate Report: Offender Management Inspection 2009 – 2012, provides findings from Offender Management Inspections which took place in all 36 probation trust areas in England and Wales between September 2009 and November 2012.
On the main elements of work inspected in OMI 2, inspectors found that:
- work to keep to a minimum an offender's risk of harm to others met a sufficiently high level of quality in 75% of work inspected;
- work to make each individual less likely to reoffend met a sufficiently high level of quality in 74% of work inspected; and
- compliance and enforcement work aimed at ensuring each individual serves his/her sentence met a sufficiently high level of quality in 79% of work inspected.
For each of these elements, there were considerable gaps between the highest and lowest scores between individual Trust areas, but no Trust received a score which required a reinspection.
The poorest performing probation trust was Kent, which scored 64% for minimising risk of harm, 62% in reducing likelihood of reoffending and 69% for enforcement and compliance. Among the best were Durham Tees Valley, Northumbria, Warwickshire, West Mercia and South Yorkshire, which scored more than 80% on all three measures.
The main areas for improvement amongst all trusts were managing risk of harm to potential victims and to those cases with child safeguarding concerns
Chief Inspector of Probation Liz Calderbank said she hopes the high levels of service will be used as a bench mark for service when the private companies take over:
The report reflects on much good work currently being undertaken with those who offend. Although the overall findings from the inspection were generally good, some aspects of work continue to require improvement.
The report is being published in the final stages of a consultation period for proposals which could see much of the work currently being undertaken by the probation service contracted out to private sector organisations.
We therefore hope that it will be of value in providing a benchmark against which all providers can judge their practice.
Andrew Hillas, the assistant chief officer of the London Probation Trust, says there are fears that present innovative schemes to reduce re-offending will suffer:
All the schemes are at risk. If probation is reduced radically in size there is no guarantee that these will continue.
There is a huge danger of fragmentation and significant scope for confusion and chaos.
Probation union Napo, also agree outsourcing the supervision of low and medium-risk offenders to private security companies such as G4S will be chaos.
Harry Fletcher, the assistant general secretary of Napo, said:
The government's plans are both chaotic and dangerous. Risk is not static; it constantly changes.
Offenders are generally not a compliant, problem-free group of people. They disproportionately suffer from mental illness, are four times more likely than the general population to misuse drugs and are 10 times more likely to have been in care.
They need to be supervised by experienced staff who can motivate them and properly assess risk.
Neil Lambert, the spokesman for the Probation Association, said that identifying changes in an offender's behaviour was a skill “drilled” into officers over many years.
If they don't identify this, and plans are not put in place to deal with that, then that is when someone can go out and commit a serious offence and become a risk to the public.
Richard Monkhouse, the deputy chairman of the Magistrates' Association, said that its members are concerned about the priorities that private companies will have:
Our concerns are whether future orders will be based on what works or what's profitable.
The Ministry of Justice have put the claims down to scaremongering, and defend the decision to drastically alter the system.
The justice minister, Jeremy Wright, said:
Reoffending rates have barely changed in a decade, and almost half of all prisoners are reconvicted within a year of their release. We cannot go on just doing more of the same.