Statement by West Yorkshire’s PCC on the news that the probation sector will be renationalised (16 May 2019)

PCC Mark Burns-Williamson said that he welcomed the news that the probation sector would be renationalised after it was part-privatised five years ago by the then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.

But the PCC said that he remained cautious over the private sector maintaining delivery of interventions and unpaid work which could contribute to the same issues that led to the current U-turn.

"I welcome this development overall because it is clear that this experiment with such a crucial service has by and large failed," Mr Burns-Williamson said.

"At the very first meeting of PCCs in London we met with Chris Grayling, prior to the Probation Service splitting, about the creation of Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and told him at the meeting not to do it.

"We said wouldn't it be better to devolve powers so we could have local accountability and put in commissioning arrangements as PCCs who had just been elected.

"He ignored our concerns and the bottom line is all this could have been avoided and the £500million that has been spent already on trying to rescue this situation could have been saved.

"I will be making further representations on this directly to the Ministry of Justice because there have been criticisms by the National Audit Office, myself and other PCCs that their latest move to expand CRCs would not work.

"We knew their latest undertaking was about to potentially replicate the CRCs problems but on a larger scale across bigger areas.

"It is really important to state this criticism of CRCs is not about the staff many of whom didn't want the split from probation but it is about the structure created by government.

"I am pleased it is being brought back under one service as it should never have been split in the first place. But remain disappointed that interventions and unpaid work supervision is to remain in the private sector.

"This is essentially part renationalisation with £280million of public funds still being delivered into the private sector to provide programmes aimed at reducing reoffending and unpaid work.

"We need robust mechanisms to ensure that funding is effectively used where needed at the local level and the accountability structures to go with it.

"We now need to work together and look at how this latest development is going to work from a local devolution point of view, as I know there is a point of view from UNISON that having probation run through the Ministry of Justice is not the right answer either.

"The regions that the new probation structure covers need to be reviewed and aligned to other local services. That raises concern over connection to local communities and impact on outcomes and local accountability.

"I have created a Reducing Reoffending Strategy which includes partnership working and the rehabilitation and resettlement of ex-offenders, and also includes working with criminal justice partners, the third sector and service users and look forward to building on that work with this development.

"We need to ensure offenders are being rehabilitated effectively to avoid further criminality and reduce the impact on victims. My strategy recognises the benefits of a person-centred approach, and a return to a national service will be a far more effective way to deliver this.

"Whilst it may seem obvious that a reduction in reoffending will make society safer, to achieve this is far more complicated than having simple targets as the government now realise.

"I hope the new proposals give back opportunity for small and medium sized charities and organisations, often based locally, to become more greatly re-engaged with delivery of programmes and services to communities. At present the detail is not clear how this is to be managed."

© Copyright West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner 2019