It would be wrong to expect probation officer jobs to always stay the same. There is always constant retraining, and new guidelines to follow. Most of the time though, these would be expected to be minor changes that happen very gradually over time. One time when this wasn’t so gradual was when the government published their white paper entitled: ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ (TR) This assessed the situation that even though funding for rehabilitation was going up, reoffending rates were not changing; or in some places getting worse. The conclusion was that change needed to take place on a large scale. However, last year a lot of the changes made through TR were halted by the government. In this article we will look at what some of those changes are, and what it has meant for those working in probation.
The provision of community service before TR was managed by the National Offender Management Service. TR split these provisions between the public-sector in the form of the National Probation Service (NPS) and private Commercial Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). Broadly speaking, this resulted in the NPS to deal with the supervision of medium to high risk of harm offenders. While the CRCs would handle supervision of low risk of harm offenders. While a the same time the rehabilitative process of probation was more joined-up between prison and the community. This was achieved by CRCs assuming responsibility of the management of offenders rehabilitation process from the point they enter custody.
Supervision in a more broader term also changed. There was an increase on the mandatory amount of time an offender had to be supervised by probation services, after being released from prison. This allowed for a better structure to be put in place with offenders after leaving prison, and a key way in which the government believed they could lower reoffending rates. Partially as a result of this allowing for a more sustainable reintegration into society. Within the management side of the process, CRCs were also offered incentives based on lowering reoffending rates. Putting a financial impetus on making this an important issue to tackle throughout the probation period.
Some of these changes have come under scrutiny. With the National Audit Office (NAO) providing an independent report in 2016. One of their largest concerns was how the government lacks the data to properly assess how suitable new private service providers were. As well as concern of putting profit before public safety. These results could have led to the government’s decision in 2018 to cut contracts of CRCs and a lot of their role within the Probation process