Headlines: July 6th, 2001

Home Office Minister Beverley Hughes has challenged the Probation Service to communicate with communities, explain what they do and why it matters. The challenge reflects concern that the restructured Service has a steep hill to climb in regaining public confidence. A crime survey disclosed that 25% of people in the UK view the Service as poor or very poor. This view is shared by Ministers and officials in Whitehall who consider that it gives poor value for the 500 million pounds spent on it annually. Latest figures show that about half of prisoners re-offend within two years of release. There is a marked variation in performance between areas and last year more than one third of inspections revealed below standard performance.As Eithne Wallis approaches her first 100 days as the National Director of the Probation Service she set out her commitment to reform when she said: “Moving at some speed now is the redesign of our interventions and programmes, based on the evidence of ‘What Works’. Her task is to reduce the reconviction rates for offenders under probation supervision by five per cent by 2004. The five per cent reduction translates into one million fewer victims.

The re-structured national service has replaced 54 local committees with 42 local boards. The boundaries now match those of the police and the courts and this allows better partnership working. Management weaknesses are being tackled by use of the European Excellence Model, which allows an organization to assess how well it is performing in such areas as leadership, partnership and strategy. The Better Quality Service process is also being adopted. This provides a guide for reviewing objectives and relationships in the search for better value for money.