Probation services are a key part of the criminal justice system. They are overseen by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), which is an executive agency within the Ministry of Justice.
Probation services are responsible for:
- Advising courts on sentencing decisions
- Supervising people in the community who have offended and been released from custody on license and people who have received community sentences
- Working with people in custody to prepare them for a life after release
- Monitoring the risk posed by people supervised in the community and ensuring the public is protected
- Planning and delivering rehabilitative support, often in partnership with voluntary sector organisations
- Enforcing compliance with court orders and licence conditions.
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. CRCs are responsible for the supervision of people who are assessed as low to medium risk of harm to the public.
Last year following a consultation on the structure and services provided by the probation system, the government announced that from spring 2021, CRC contracts will end and all sentence management in England and Wales will be brought back under responsibility of the NPS.
Over the past year the Ministry of Justice and HMPPS have delivered a number of events and webinars to provide further details on their plans for probation services. Under the new model, the government will:
- Establish 11 NPS areas in England and one NPS area in Wales, with each area overseen by a regional probation director who will be responsible for the overall delivery and commissioning of probation services in their area
- Establish a Dynamic Framework to commission rehabilitation and resettlement services
- Establish a Regional Outcome Fund which will provide funding for “innovative, cross-cutting approaches” to reducing reoffending.
Probation jargon - explained
The new probation system
- The Target Operating Model (TOM) sets out in detail the latest plans for how the future probation system will look.
- All responsibility for sentence management will move back to the National Probation Service (NPS).
- In each area, NPS operational delivery will be reorganised around Probation Delivery Units.
- There are 12 probation regions in England and Wales, and 12 National Probation Service Regional Directors have been appointed to lead probation services in their region.
The commissioning process
- The dynamic framework is the mechanism through which rehabilitation and resettlement interventions will be procured for the future probation model. The framework is the main opportunity for voluntary organisations of all sizes to deliver services through the new probation system.
- Market warming is the stage where preparatory documents are released to potential bidders so they can prepare.
- Jaggaer is the esourcing portal/website (formally known as Bravo) through which documents on the commissioning process can be found and organisations can complete the qualification and call-off process.
- Qualification is the process by which organisations apply to be on the framework.
- The Selection Questionnaire (SQ) is something organisations must complete to qualify on the framework and will cover basic information about the organisation and the services they deliver.
- Call-off is the stage at which organisations can compete for a contract on the dynamic framework. Commissioners will announce their intention to run call-off for specific services, at which point organisations who have qualified onto the framework can compete for the specific contracts.
- Day one call-offs are for contracts to deliver core services that are needed from the first day of delivery of the new model.
- Service categories are the types of services that will be commissioned under the dynamic framework. There are 14 Service categories:
- Finance, Benefits and Debt
- Education, Training and Employment
- Dependency and Recovery
- Family and Significant Others
- Lifestyle and Associates
- Emotional Wellbeing
- Social Inclusion
- Young Adults (18-25 years old)
- Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME)
- Restorative Justice
- Cognitive and Behavioural Change
- Service User Involvement
- Prime providers/contractors work directly with the government to deliver services. They can subcontract work to other providers, manage subcontractors, and are responsible for ensuring that the work is completed as defined in the contract.
- Accredited programmes are aimed at reducing reoffending. They are pre-set programmes that have been specifically designed to support desistance and have been approved by the MoJ through an accreditation process. The Thinking Skills and the Building Better Relationships programmes will be the most widely available under the new system, but a range of accredited programmes are available in each area.
- Structured interventions are aimed at people deemed to be of lower risk of harm and who do not meet the threshold of an accredited programme. The interventions have a fixed number of sessions and pre-set content that everyone receives.
- The Regional outcomes and innovation fund is an HMPPS fund which regional probation directors will be able to access to commission outcome-related services.
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 services 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 fulfilling lives.
This support includes help with accommodation, employment and education, drug treatment, and debt advice as well as projects or services specifically for particular cohorts such as women and young adults.
Advising the Ministry of Justice
Clinks provides the chair and secretariat for an advisory group to the Ministry of Justice. 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.