David Cliff
David Cliff

Member Article

Changes to probation services are a cause for concern

Changes to the probation service which will see some offenders managed by private sector firms are “irresponsible” and justified by meaningless statistics, says a North East business leader.

David Cliff, Managing Director of professional support and development firm Gedanken and vice chairman of the County Durham and Sunderland committee of the Institute of Directors (IoD) believes the plans will lead to real risk.

He said: “I would never have thought I would be arguing for the continued retention of a public service over and above a private one, but the sheer irresponsibility that the government is demonstrating here could lead us all to be quaking in our boots.”

In short, the probation service is being cut to a third of its current size. The state service will continue to deal with the heaviest end offender, the most difficult and problematic, those of greatest concern to public safety. The rest, “moderate” or low level offenders, will have their oversight contracted out to large private companies, mutuals and consortia.

David said: “The Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, with his penchant for change, reckons that the current probation service has failed in dealing with lower order offenders that have custodial sentences of less than 12 months. This would appear to be totally misleading spin as, in reality, statute precludes the Probation Service from providing support to this group of offenders. You can’t fail at a job you have not been allowed to do. The Probation Service has a good record of hitting its targets, but were not given the opportunity here.”

Additionally, there will almost certainly be difficulties in the link-up between effectively two-tier services, said David.

He said: “In complex organisations, it is often difficult for people to be migrated across from department to department in terms of service provision. So just how is this public and multiple private split going to work to allow the seamless transition of people from one end of the spectrum to the other, to ensure individuals with offender behaviours are supported and the public protected?

“Once again, we see an example of government where ideology gets in the way of decent project management and sensible implementation timescales. This whole thing has been parachuted in within a year. A quarter of a million probation files will have to be passed over to the private sector, different companies will be offering different elements of offender programmes in the same locality.

“A significant number of Police and Crime Commissioners have voiced concern over these moves. They clearly recognise the real concerns of the public, those who are aware of the changes and the even greater number who are perhaps unclear and under-informed of the implications of this avoidable and drastic sea change that could have a massive impact on community safety for us all.”

David Cliff is available for interview and to supply authored articles on this subject.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by David Cliff .

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