Prisons and Probation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:35 pm on 14th May 2019.

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Photo of David Gauke David Gauke The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice 1:35 pm, 14th May 2019

Obviously, that is a tragic case, and, as I have before, I express my sympathies for the family of the hon. Gentleman’s constituent. As regards identifying and attributing blame, I am not in a position to comment on that. CRCs manage those who are assessed as low and medium-risk offenders.

If I can return to my comments, I want to make a wider point about the crucial role that can be played by the private sector and, indeed, the voluntary sector in supporting probation work. It is the dedication and commitment of these organisations, many of them small and community-led, that enables offenders to turn their lives around. The work of the voluntary sector, particularly with vulnerable offenders such as those with learning difficulties and other complex needs, is irreplaceable and the Government are committed to supporting it. We have been clear that the public, private and voluntary sectors all have a clear role to play in building a strong probation service. That does not mean that we cannot learn from the experience of transforming rehabilitation.

I have been clear that under CRCs the quality of offender management has too often been disappointing. I am determined to learn from what has gone well and what has not under the current system. That is why the Government have acted decisively to end CRC contracts early, invest an additional £22 million a year in through-the-gate provision, and to hold a consultation on the shape of future arrangements. I am grateful to all those who have responded to the public consultation, as well as for the work of Dame Glenys Stacey, the Justice Committee and the Public Accounts Committee in providing helpful scrutiny and challenge as we consider how best to deliver a stronger, more resilient system. It is important to recognise, as those partners have, the role of external factors in creating a challenging operating environment for CRCs, but we have also looked very carefully at their findings about the complexities of contractualising offender management and the challenges of ensuring continuity of supervision and integration among providers.

I look forward to bringing detailed plans for the future of probation to the House in due course. I will be driven by the evidence and what works. This must not be a matter of ideology or dogmatism but one of single-minded focus on delivering the probation system we need.