Probation Services

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th October 2018.

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Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Labour, Stockton North 12:00 am, 9th October 2018

If he will take steps to return all probation services to the public sector.

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

We do not believe this is an ideological divide between the private and public sectors. We are looking at the relationship between the community rehabilitation companies and the national probation service, in terms of their geographical spread and how they work together. However, we are finding across the country that having the public sector focus on the highest risk prisoners and the private sector and other, non-profit actors focusing on delivering for the lowest risk offenders is delivering innovation, from Cumbria right the way down to London.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Labour, Stockton North

In the Committee on the Bill that created the service we have today, many weeks were spent trying to convince the Government that their privatisation experiment with the probation service would fail, and it has. The exception might be the only not-for-profit public sector CRC, which covers the Tees Valley, part of which I represent. It has been singled out in Her Majesty’s inspectorate of probation reports as delivering best practice. What will the Minister do to ensure that the Tees Valley CRC is not subsumed into another privatised contract, to learn from it, and to return the probation service to the public sector?

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman’s local CRC, which is a good example of how CRCs can work. Durham CRC is a good example of the local authority and the previous probation trust working together. It has met 85% of its targets and is a well-performing CRC. There are also good examples to be followed elsewhere in the country, including in Cumbria, where the CRC is working with rural communities, and in London, where the CRC has improved dramatically and done some very good work with Grenfell survivors. I certainly pay tribute to the work done in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency.

Photo of Andrew Bridgen Andrew Bridgen Conservative, North West Leicestershire

Does the Minister agree that one key to aiding the rehabilitation of offenders is to ensure that probation officers have manageable case loads, so that they can give sufficient time and energy to each case?

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

A manageable case load is of course absolutely central, as is the flexibility to make sure that when a probation officer has a high-risk offender—a criminal who is more challenging to deal with—they have smaller numbers of offenders to deal with and can adjust their case load according to the risk posed by the individual and the complexity of the case.

Photo of Catherine West Catherine West Labour, Hornsey and Wood Green

What assessment has the Minister made of NHS and non-NHS-provided drug-curing services? The drug problems seem to be getting worse, rather than better, in so many of our prisons.

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

This is a serious issue, not only in England but in the devolved Administrations such as Scotland, where I saw very high levels of methadone prescription. I am happy to sit down with the hon. Lady to discuss the subject in more detail.

Photo of Robert Courts Robert Courts Conservative, Witney

What assurances can the Minister provide that the services provided by community rehabilitation companies are robustly monitored?

Photo of Rory Stewart Rory Stewart The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

The best guarantee that these companies are performing is the action of Parliament and of the chief inspector of probation, to whom I pay tribute for her series of hard-hitting reports, most recently on domestic violence. As the Secretary of State has pointed out, we have seen a 2% reduction in reoffending. That has been driven by these companies and is to be welcomed, but there is of course much more to be done to protect the public.