This Government are committed to an ambitious programme of social reform, even at a time of financial constraints. Major changes have already been delivered in welfare and education to tackle the challenge of endemic welfare dependence and educational underperformance, particularly in deprived areas. In the coalition agreement, the Government also promised
”to introduce a rehabilitation revolution” to tackle the unacceptable cycle of reoffending, and today I am publishing a consultation paper entitled “Transforming Rehabilitation: a revolution in the way we manage offenders”.
This publication describes my proposals to reform the way in which offenders are rehabilitated in the community through a new focus on life management and mentoring support. I am also planning, for the first time, to extend rehabilitation to those released after serving sentences of less than 12 months, who currently get no support but have the highest reoffending rates.
Reoffending has been far too high for far too long. Despite significant increases in spending on probation under the previous Government, there has been little change in reconviction rates over the past decade. In 2010, nearly half (47.5%) of prisoners were reconvicted within 12 months of release. Failing to divert offenders away from crime has a huge impact. The cost to the Ministry of Justice of dealing with these offenders is considerable, with total expenditure on prisons and offender management standing at £4 billion in 2011-12. But it is not only expenditure on offender management; the National Audit Office estimated that the wider economic cost was as much as £13 billion in 2007-08.
The proposals in this paper extend provision to a greater number of offenders and increase the focus on rehabilitation. Given the challenging financial context, we will need to increase efficiency and drive down costs to enable us to do this. I therefore intend to begin a process of competition to open up the market and bring in a more diverse mix of providers, delivering increased innovation and improved value for money. To ensure that the system is properly focused on reducing reoffending and deploying more effective interventions, providers will in future only be paid in full when they reduce reconviction rates in their area.
We will not take any risks in protecting the public and the public sector probation service will retain ultimate responsibility for public protection and will manage directly those offenders who pose the highest risk of serious harm to the public—this group will include MAPPA cases. They will also continue to carry out risk assessments for each offender, advise the courts and Parole Board and handle breach cases. The probation service performs a vital role in protecting the public and managing risk—I am determined to preserve that.
The great majority of community sentences and rehabilitation work will, however, be delivered by the private sector and voluntary organisations, which have particular expertise in this area. I am also keen to ensure that probation professionals currently within existing structures have scope to play a full role in the new rehabilitation provision. Providers will be commissioned to deliver community orders and licence requirements for most offenders in broad geographic areas, and will be paid by results to reduce reoffending. They will be expected to tackle the causes of reoffending and help offenders turn their lives around, for example, by providing mentors and signposting to housing, training and employment, and addiction and mental health services.
Our reforms will make use of local experience, and integrate with existing local structures. We want to introduce a system which allows for closer alignment of the variety of services which offenders use, through co-commissioning with other Government Departments, police and crime commissioners, and local authorities. Potential providers will have to evidence how they would sustain local partnerships in contracts.
These proposals will make a significant change to the system, delivering the Government’s commitment to real reform. Transforming rehabilitation will help to ensure that all of those sentenced to prison or community sentences are properly punished while being supported to turn their backs on crime for good—meaning lower crime, fewer victims and safer communities.
This paper includes the Government’s response to the March 2012 consultation “Punishment and Reform: Effective Probation Services”.
Copies will be available in the Vote Office and the Printed Paper Office and online at: