Lord Dholakia responds to government reforms over re-nationalisation of probation service

Tuesday 21st May 2019 13:42 EDT

The subject of re-nationalisation of the probation services has come to the forefront yet again, with the supervision of all offenders in the community to be undertaken by the state in a major re-nationalisation of the probation sector in England and Wales. This comes just five years after Chris Grayling introduced a widely derided programme of privatisation while he was the justice secretary.

Responding to the Government's statement on the subject, Lord Dholakia has "broadly welcomed the thrust of the Government’s intention to reorganise this service. Whilst it has been a long time coming," he was also apologetic of the role the Liberal Democrats played as part of the coalition Government.

Notwithstanding the issues, "some of the principles of these reforms were very sound when they were introduced. It was right that supervision was available for at least the first year when inmates leave prison," he stated.

Under Grayling's disastrous shake-up in 2014, the probation sector was separated into a public sector organisation managing high-risk criminals and 21 private companies responsible for the supervision of 150,000 low- to medium-risk offenders.

"It was important to provide through-the-gate services, so that people can have a place to live as well as continuity of training and treatment between prison and the community. But, Mr. Grayling has bungled and underfunded contracts so badly that his reforms failed to achieve these objectives. No wonder it is estimated, that these botched reforms have cost the taxpayer more than £500 million," he declared.

Following years of damning criticism from MPs, inspectorates and former probation officers, the justice secretary, David Gauke, has decided to bring all offender management under the National Probation Service (NPS) by spring 2021. But concerned that the latest announcement of reform will just lead nowhere, Lord Dholakia stated "We need some guarantees to ensure that the probation service is not let down again". Questioning how the reforms will work in practice, he asked the Minister, "Is there some way of ensuring that more incarceration of prisoners will effectively mean more work for the probation service?" Furthermore, enquiring about the many experienced people who have left the Probation Service in the last few years, he asked, "What is being done to bring them back into probation work?"

But he is also apprehensive of how the funding will work on the ground- "What share will voluntary organisations have in such funds in order to make the probation service more effective?" Underlining his point, he stressed, "we should never lose sight of the fact that when the state incarcerates prisoners, it takes full responsibility for each individual. If we lose that responsibility we will lose control of our criminal justice system", Lord Dholakia concluded.

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