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First, I pay tribute to the Public Accounts Committee for its work in looking at exactly this subject. In order to work better, we are consulting on having a closer relationship between the National Probation Service and the CRCs. Secondly, we are making sure we put much more focus on the basics, by which we mean the risk assessment, the plan for probation and regular contact.
I recently visited the Kent, Surrey and Sussex CRC to see the great work it is doing to support 9,000 low-risk and medium-risk offenders across three counties, including through an excellent partnership with Buckmore Park scouts for community payback. Will the Minister join me in congratulating it on its creative partnership and holistic approach to the offender, which is bringing about positive results in rehabilitation?
Yes, I would like to pay tribute to that CRC, which is performing well, and to other CRCs such as Cumbria’s. I also pay tribute to the London CRC for the innovative work it is doing on knife crime rehabilitation.
There is a lack of information about, and confidence in, how CRCs are using rehabilitation activity requirements. Will the Minister look at how, in the negotiation of new contracts, there can be more precision about the expectations on CRCs as to how they administer RARs and, in particular, how they provide evidence that structured activity is taking place?
Very much so; a key part of the new consultation is taking some of the previous flexibility away and defining much more closely the requirements on regularity of contact, type of contact and the expectation on the offender.
Does the Minister agree that one of the keys to rehabilitation is to ensure manageable case loads for probation officers, so that more time and energy can be spent on each individual?
That is correct, which is why we are currently recruiting more than 1,000 new probation officers and probation support officers. But this is about not only the case load per prisoner but making sure we can focus most on the most risky prisoners and getting the right relationship between staff and risk.
Absolutely. YMCA and the Prince’s Trust have a role to play, and indeed more than 15,000 charities in Britain have working with offenders as one of their objectives. The third sector has so much to offer, and, in renegotiating and redesigning probation contracts, we must make it much easier for charities and the third sector to engage in them and bring their skills and knowledge.