Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Probation privatisation: worst fears realised

We could certainly do these things better in Wales. This report in the Independent is evidence that privatisation of the probation service was a mistake and all the more reason for policing and justice to be devolved to Wales.

The National Audit Office has found that "the Government has no way of knowing how well companies responsible for running the country’s probation services are performing due to a failure to collect accurate information", and that "some of the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) may be manipulating or withholding data from government agencies while others are putting financial profit above public safety by ignoring difficult offenders who require the most help because it costs them too much money to treat them". In an all too familiar story, the Government started with a "pilot" study but did not wait to find out the results to judge whether privatisation was appropriate for the probation service.

The report goes on: "A number of the companies that were awarded contracts had no experience of the sector at all and a number of others were set up shortly before being awarded contracts, meaning that they had no track record from which they could be assessed for their suitability.

It also states that "the Government has no way of knowing how well the CRCs are performing after failing to collect accurate data required to assess them" and there are suspicions that companies are manipulating data.

The remit of Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) is "a broad responsibility for holding the police to account, setting the police budget and determining and meeting the priorities for policing and crime reduction in the local area". Yet they do not have any influence on probation, which is a vital factor in crime reduction. If the government is to continue with the PCCs (an experiment too early to evaluate, in my opinion), they should at least follow their logic through and give them oversight of the probation care companies in their area.

Read the complete report and weep. This could be the most blatant example yet of a blinkered government pursuing a policy based on political prejudice, deliberately disregarding evidence, and one that will likely affect public safety.

No comments: