Probation services are a key part of the criminal justice system. They are overseen by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service, which is an executive agency within the Ministry of Justice.
Probation services are responsible for:
- Advice to courts on sentencing decisions
- Supervision in the community of people who have offended and been released from custody on license or who have received community sentences
- Monitoring the risk posed by people supervised in the community and ensuring the public is protected
- Working with people in custody to prepare them for a life after release
- Planning and delivering rehabilitative support, often in partnership with and the support of voluntary sector organisations
- Bringing people back to court, or recalling them to prison, if they are not complying with their sentence
Since 2015, under the Ministry of Justice’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme, probation services are delivered by the National Probation Service (NPS) and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) across England and Wales.
The NPS oversees the writing of all pre-sentence reports, conducts all initial risk assessments and supervises people who are deemed to be of high risk of harm to the public. Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) are responsible for the supervision of people who are assessed as low to medium risk of harm to the public.
The Ministry of Justice has recently concluded a consultation on the way in which probation services should be structured and delivered in the future and published a draft operating blueprint. You can read Clinks briefing of that blueprint here.
Under the new changes, from spring 2021, CRC contracts will end, and all supervision will come under the management of the NPS. The government will also:
- Establish at least 10 NPS areas in England and one NPS area in Wales, with each area overseen by a regional team
- Commission Innovation Partners to deliver Unpaid Work and Accredited Programmes
- Establish a Dynamic Framework to commission additional rehabilitation and resettlement services
- Establish a Regional Outcome Fund which will provide funding specifically for “innovative, cross-cutting approaches” to reducing reoffending
Voluntary organisations working in the criminal justice system have a long history of providing services that complement and supplement probation services. Indeed, the probation service has its roots in the voluntary sector.
In modern times, the role of voluntary organisations has become distinct from that of statutory probation services. Probation are responsible for delivering the sentence of the court. Voluntary organisations provide wrap-around services to enable and support individuals to undertake and complete their sentence and go on to live a fulfilling life.
This support includes help with accommodation, employment and education, drug treatment, and debt advice.
Advising the Ministry of Justice
Clinks provides the chair and secretariat for an advisory group to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). The Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group’s (RR3) purpose is to build a strong and effective partnership between the voluntary sector and the MoJ.
At various meetings with the Ministry of Justice, the RR3 has fed back its views about the review of probation. Read the meeting notes.
In 2016, the RR3 convened a special interest group on supporting effective mentoring through the gate to explore how to provide effective mentoring for men and women resettling in the community after a prison sentence. It considered the role and contribution of voluntary organisations in pioneering this approach and the impact of probation commissioning and contracting arrangements and funding on voluntary organisations’ ability to deliver effective mentoring. The group made recommendations to voluntary groups, the Ministry of Justice and other relevant parties.