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“GET A GRIP” Urges Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird QC

4th May 2016

The National Audit Office has today warned the Government that it has no way of knowing how well companies responsible for running the country’s probation services are performing.

The report also revealed that some of the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) may be manipulating or withholding data while others are putting financial profit above public safety by ignoring difficult offenders who require the most help because it costs them too much money to treat them.  There are also fears that companies are not subject to adequate oversight.

Northumbria’s Police & Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird QC said “Let me be absolutely clear this report is not a reflection on the staff on the ground who are trying their best in very difficult circumstances.  The Prime Minister and the Tory MPs who pushed for privatisation of the probation service now need to get this sorted.  I have grave reservations about the problems privatisation of this service has caused – there are serious questions that need answering urgently”.

Mrs Baird added “In Northumbria we have one of the best probation services in the country and despite the efforts of many, we are watching the Government dismantle it piece by piece, eroding confidence and destroying morale.”

“The Ministry’s poor track record of managing procurements and contracts has once again been shown to be the case.  Contracts have been awarded to companies that had no experience of this work and a number of others were set up shortly before being awarded contracts – meaning that they had no track record from which they could be assessed for their suitability”

In 2014 when I spoke to the cross party committee of MPs on this matter I highlighted my concerns about plans to pay the new rehabilitation companies based on their success in preventing further re-offending. The mechanism for paying Community Rehabilitation Companies by results is quite complex and untested.  The National Audit Office is now questioning putting financial profit above public safety”.

Privatisation of probation services  began in 2014, with responsibility for low and medium risk cases being outsourced to CRCs held in public ownership, before the scheme extended to apply to commercial companies in the private sector.

Ms Baird said “The Government need to get a grip of this mess, it needs leadership from the top of government – the Tories created this mess, they now need to sort it before it is too late – a failing by this organisation could have disastrous consequences”