We are deeply concerned by the National Audit Office's recent report on the widespread failures of the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms to probation services, which have not met the Ministry of Justice's targets to reduce reoffending. As the report shows, offences committed by previous offenders increased by 22% between 2011 and 2017. The report points to worrying shortcomings in terms of planning for structural changes as well as issues around implementation. Magistrates cannot be confident in alternatives to custody if the system lacks the capacity to provide and enforce robust and effective community sentences.
The Ministry of Justice must carefully evaluate the responses to its consultation on the future of probation delivery and reflect on how best to mitigate the risks regarding the future of the probation service. As it negotiates new contracts, it should ensure that it has the resources and expertise available to ensure a comprehensive assessment of the feasibility of bids. It is also crucial that the end of existing contracts is carefully managed. The transition to new contracts must be as seamless as possible to avoid unnecessary disruption to offenders, whose potential risks and needs must be fully understood and placed at the forefront when considering the overarching strategic aims for the probation system.
We welcome the introduction of a forum for stakeholders across the system to discuss both challenges and opportunities for improvement. Evidence from this forum must be listened to and appropriately actioned to make the most of expert advice and the Ministry of Justice must commit to working closely with other bodies to tackle problems, like provision of suitable accommodation, which are key to reducing reoffending.