PCCs and Probation

psIt is clear that whilst a debate rages regarding the suitability of G4S and SERCO to bid for probation contracts as part of the ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ reform, that a number of other issues or comments are being lost to the scrutiny that they deserve. I have already given my view that these two businesses should not be allowed to bid for any of the contracts, due to the conflicts of interest with their other business interests and also their failure to deliver public services in a trustworthy manner. As I wrote previously I am also very concerned that according to some commentators, if these companies are excluded, that the whole process may fail due to a lack of qualified bidders. This must bring the whole ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ process into question. However just as we were hearing of the decisions by the two companies to reorganise their structures following the tagging debacle, MPs were debating probation. Last Wednesday they spent a few hours in discussion and one of the MPs who was keen to speak was the Conservative MP for Thurrock, Jackie Doyle-Price. Jackie who has previously worked for South Yorkshire Police and so will be well aware of the changes to Policing, explained to colleagues:

“Police and crime commissioners will have a massive role in bringing together successful partnerships to bid for contracts. I pay tribute to an imaginative approach in my constituency, spearheaded by the police and crime commissioner, working with the youth offending team. The team had to find a new home. One of our police stations had closed. The PCC brought together a partnership between the council and the youth offending team, which enabled the re-opening of the police station, with a front-facing desk, that also provided a secure working environment for the team and its clients. That is a great example of partnership working and of how police and crime commissioners can make a difference. I commend what the Government are doing on this agenda.”

This does illustrate the sort of thing a PCC should be able to sort out, and one hopes that Jackie would have been just as complimentary if the Essex PCC was from a different political party. We need to see much more evidence of PCCs acting as a catalyst for  partnership working, including here in Sussex. However Jackie is one of 19 MPs in Essex which shows that this sort of solution is at the micro level of her PCC’s area. That is not a criticism, a great deal of crime is committed at this sort of level and local working is vital. However Essex is one of the small number of areas where the new probation contracts will be co-terminus with the area of a Police and Crime Commissioner. Essex will also be one of the smallest contracts across the country. By comparison the contract area into which Sussex fits will be much larger, also encompassing Surrey and Kent. The current probation trust covers Surrey and Sussex and the two Police Forces also cooperate very well across that geography. One imagines that the two PCCs may be able to achieve some joint working, although Kevin Hurley is a great deal more positive in public about this than Katy Bourne. However the inclusion of Kent makes almost no sense. The only common linkage is with the Courts Service and that change (created by linking Kent with Surrey & Sussex in 2009) was not designed to improve joint working with other agencies. It would make much more sense for the Courts Service to be divided up again and for Kent to be seen as a separate area for probation, just as it is for Policing. The PCC for Kent and our own for Sussex are hardly on one another’s Christmas Card list.

The original proposals in the Transforming Rehabilitation consultation were for 16 contract areas. This has grown to 21 which is still some way short of the previous probation areas and it is a long way short of the 41 PCC’s. It is clear from the final document that the linkage to PCC’s is very much in the mind of the MOJ.

PCCs bring an opportunity for collective local leadership to galvanise police, local authorities, the Crown Prosecution Service and courts to work together to prevent crime and reduce reoffending. Our rehabilitation services need to be responsive to these changes and by designing contract package areas which align with the PCCs’ police force boundaries we want to ensure that measures to reduce crime and rehabilitate offenders can be integrated effectively to achieve the best results. Transforming Rehabilitation

The original proposals for 16 contract areas would have made this sort of aspiration almost impossible, the current 21 areas have improved the prospects for some PCCs. What we need is for the MPs who claim to understand the nature of this process, like Jackie Doyle-Price to recognise the difficulties presented to a number of PCCs as well as to other key players. Sadly, most MPs are unlikely to consider the impact beyond their own constituency boundaries, which is one of the problems with our current Parliamentary arrangements. What we need from the debates in Parliament, even at this late stage is for Chris Grayling to be persuaded to look at the map again and make some more changes!

About ianchisnall

I am passionate about the need for public policies to be made accessible to everyone, especially those who want to improve the wellbeing of their communities. I am particularly interested in issues related to crime and policing as well as health services and strategic planning.
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