The Government's proposals to reform probation services are too ambitious for the timescale envisaged and have fundamental design problems, say the Probation Association and the Probation Chiefs Association.
"The Government would be taking unnecessary risks with public protection, would damage local partnerships with other essential services and be trying to do too much too soon with its proposals" said Sebert Cox, Chairman of the PA and Sue Hall, Chair of the PCA.
The PA and PCA claim that to attempt the outsourcing of 80% of probation work (medium and low risk cases) while at the same time restructuring the remainder of the service into a high risk offender management unit is unlikely to be achieved within Justice Secretary Chris Grayling's stated two-year time frame.
"We have outlined a manageable way forward on what we believe would be achievable by 2015," said Mr Cox and Ms Hall.
In their joint response to the Ministry of Justice's Transforming Rehabilitation consultation paper, the two organisations (who collectively represent the leadership of the probation service in England and Wales) urged the Government to scale back and sequence their plans.
The joint PA and PCA document states: "Our overall response to the proposals is that they will increase the risk of harm to the public; and that they cannot be implemented in the timetable envisaged without causing serious damage to the delivery of the current service".
"As well as the risks to a critical public service from such haste, there is a risk that nothing in the Government's programme will be achieved if advances are attempted on all fronts. There is an urgent need to scale down and sequence the changes."
The two organisations said they understood the pressure for reform and proposed the following which could be put in place by 2015:
The increased risk to the public, they said, was inherent in the proposal to fragment offender supervision across different organisations and sectors with the public sector remaining responsible for "policing" the new providers.
The two organisations said that such an arrangement "would increase the complexity of information exchange and fracture the continuity of offender supervision, adding substantially to the risk of public protection failures".
We and the Probation Chiefs Association have jointly published a briefing about Probation Trusts for prospective Police and Crime Commissioners and Policing and Crime Panels.
The briefing outlines:
Welcoming the opportunity to comment on the Government's proposals on the future shape of probation services, Sebert Cox, Chairman of PA, and Sue Hall, Chair of PCA, and said:
"We support competition for interventions aimed at breaking the cycle of offending, rehabilitating and getting offenders into jobs and productive lifestyles and the need to stimulate innovation. We welcome the proposal to devolve commissioning responsibility to Probation Trusts, but do not, however, support the proposal to divide offender management and to offer for competition the offender management of lower risk offenders. We believe that this will increase the risk to public safety and damage the relationship with the courts and consequently the credibility of court orders."
Download the joint response to the Probation Review here or from the document list (right).
Read our letter to the Secretary of State.
The Probation Chiefs Association has also submitted its response to the Community Sentences consultation.
This constructive critique of the regulatory framework for probation trusts contains a number of recommendations to government. Hard copies available upon request.
Our brochure explains the local role of probation as well as our vision for probation trusts. Hard copies can be provided upon request.
Our range of Think Local publications, including the Trust Partnership Development Strategy and Local Scrutiny Guidance, can be downloaded from our Think Local page.