The National Audit Office has released a progress review of the transforming rehabilitation reforms. The report examines the Ministry of Justice's (MOJ) progress in achieving the objectives of the reforms, implementation of the reforms and use of learning to inform the future of probation services. The report builds on learning points identified by the MOJ since they decided to terminate the contracts of community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) early and identifies other immediate and long-term risks affecting the future of the probation service. These include managing the transition to new contracts, managing continuing system interfaces, managing new contracts and better integrating services.
The report makes three recommendations, that the MOJ:
- Should pause and reflect on its proposed approach to provide assurance that this is both deliverable and consistent with its strategic aims for the probation system. In doing so, it should evaluate thoroughly the responses to its consultation, be explicit about its risk appetite for provider failure and variations in the quality of probation services and consider how it will respond to the risks set out in this report.
- Should in parallel, work with the Reducing Reoffending Board to publish a cross-governmental strategy that spells out how it will work with other bodies to reduce reoffending. This should include setting measurable objectives and clarifying accountability for different services across probation providers, local authorities and central government departments.
- Should develop a detailed plan for managing the wind-down period of the existing contracts, refining its approach to contract management and assurance so it focuses on the areas of greatest risk. This should include obtaining assurance that CRCs deliver services to at least minimum expected standards, that any service credits due are identified and collected, and any material breaches of contract are enforced.