Headlines: December 5th, 2005

The National Association of Probation Officers is warning that proposals to replace local Probation Boards with trusts and for a mixed economy of providers from the private and not for profit sectors, will neither reduce re-offending nor protect the public.In its response today to the Home Office consultation paper, “Restructuring Probation to Reduce Re-Offending” Napo says fragmentation of the service will lead to less information sharing.

The Government’s plans were published in October and include the abolition of the National Probation Service and would give the Secretary of State the statutory duty to make arrangements for the provision of probation services. This would see the establishment of the trusts. Napo says the proposals come at a time when the Home Office itself has recognised that the Probation Service is performing better than at any time in its history.

Court reports are being produced on time in 98 per cent of cases, enforcement procedures followed in 92 per cent of cases, and achievements in basic skills, such as literacy and numeracy, are well above target.

Napo says no case has been made for the abolition of a unified Probation Service, neither is there any evidence that its replacement by a fragmented model of private and voluntary providers, would reduce re-offending. The model, itself, runs counter to the evidence that does exist on what is necessary to reduce re-offending and protect the public. That, it says, is a skilled and professional workforce using strategies based on partnership and accountability to the local community.

In its response Napo says the way forward is partnership and multi-agency cooperation and it points to examples including work with the police in supervising dangerous offenders, drug treatment orders, and youth justice initiatives. It fears that using a multiplicity of providers will lead to less information sharing, services which are remote from local communities and a dramatic fall in judicial confidence. It also says it is alarmed that the proposed trusts will not have any local representation or sentencer involvement.