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Building spire

The future of probation services - EQUAL’s response

In 2014/15 the MoJ introduced major changes to the probation services through the Transforming Rehabilitation programme. This initiative outsourced the management of low to medium risk offenders to Company Rehabilitation Companies (CRC’s) and implemented one national body (the National Probation Service) to manage high risk offenders.

The new structures experienced major problems from their inception. Many of these were outlined in a recent report by the Justice Select Committee. As a result, the MoJ took the decision to re-tender the contracts with CRC’s (two years before the end of the contract term) and to carry out public consultations to inform the redesign of probation services.

As part of this consultation process, the National Independent Advisory Group held a consultation event focused on how to improve outcomes for BAME offenders and address ethnic disproportionality throughout probation services. The event was attended by 17 people from community organisations that work with BAME communities within the prison/probation system, academics and members of the Advisory Group.

The consultation informed a written submission to the MOJ which featured eight recommendations:

  1. The next commissioning round for CRC contracts should include a specific race equality weighting to reflect the ethnic disproportionality in the caseload and in recognition of the Lammy agenda. This should be at least 10-15%

  2. The contract specifications should include requirements for CRC’s to produce ethnic performance data and to meet the requirements set out in the Lammy Review. This should be of both BAME users and BAME intervention programs.

  3. MOJ should develop specific requirements in the contract that meet their stated objectives of enabling smaller, community and BAME led providers to engage in supply chains on terms that meet their needs

  4. The public sector equality duty (PSED) and its obligations should be given a greater emphasis throughout the contract

  5. The contracts should include a commitment on the part of the supplier to deliver culturally competent service models. MOJ should commission the development of a model of cultural competence for probation providers

  6. The needs of specific ethnic groups such as Gypsy, Traveller and Roma, Somali community etc. must be recognized through the commissioning process

  7. “Through the gate” services need to recognize the huge support of mentoring and this must be reflected in resources for paid mentors.

  8. Prospective providers should be required to outline their plans for community engagement and representation, particularly for through the gate services and how they will ensure these plans are representative of their caseloads

The recommendations we have made, informed by the experience of the participants at our consultation event will, if taken on board, help to ensure the next commissioning round can engage BAME/faith/community providers to participate in the delivery of services and hopefully develop an operating environment that can contribute to some improvement in outcomes for BAME offenders over the duration of the new contracts.

Following the huge shift set in place by the Lammy Review and its implementation framework, it is imperative that MOJ and HMPPS can demonstrate that through procurement and policy development processes they can place addressing ethnic disproportionality and improving race equality outcomes at the heart of how they do business. 

Useful links

The Guardian: Privatisation of probation service has left public at greater risk

Strengthening probation, building confidenceConsultation feedback

HMI ProbationLondon Community Rehabilitation Company - notable improvement from a very low base but much still to do

NIAG: Submission to MOJ consultation