Controversial private probation contracts scrapped at a cost of £170m

Private probation companies to have contracts ended early

Bailout totalling £500m criticised as justice secretary consults on new scheme

The controversial contracts, part of major reforms introduced by Chris Grayling in 2014, will be scrapped two years early.

The government is to tear up its heavily criticised private probation contracts at a cost of £170m after admitting some had made “very substantial losses” due to failures in a major reform programme.

The monitoring of offenders in the community faces another shake-up after disastrous reforms introduced by Chris Grayling forced the government to bail out failing private probation companies by more than half a billion pounds.

David Gauke, the justice secretary, has announced that eight private firms that run 21 “community rehabilitation companies” (CRCs) in England and Wales are to have their contracts terminated in 2020, two years earlier than agreed.

Offenders may no longer face a minimum 12 months’ supervision on release from prison or once their licence expires; and probation officers will have to meet a minimum requirement of offering monthly face-to-face contact with their clients under proposals announced on Friday and put out to consultation.

Ian Lawrence, the general secretary of probation union Napo, said: “It is unbelievable that the government’s initial response to the Justice Committee’s thorough inquiry into this catastrophe is to give private companies a bigger slice of the pie.

“It is clear they are wedded to a failed and unworkable ideology, and cannot accept the undeniable fact that justice and public safety cannot be subject to the rule of supply and demand.”

Shadow Justice Secretary Richard Burgon branded the deal a “bailout”.

He added: “This announcement is further evidence that the Conservatives’ decision to outsource whole swathes of probation to the private sector has created an unprecedented crisis in the system.

“This ideological experiment has been a costly failure, just as Labour warned it would be.

“This decision to throw more good money after bad and the government’s re-commitment to a privately-run probation service shows that the Conservatives have run out of all ideas on how to fix their broken system.

“Delaying this announcement until parliament closed for the summer is a tacit admission by the Government that its probation policies can’t withstand the slightest scrutiny.”

Agreements with 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies will end in 2020 instead of 2022 and be replaced with new ones under the reforms.

The £170 million includes £115 million the CRCs owe in fines for failing to meet performance targets, but which they will be allowed instead to reinvest in services to keep them going for the last two years of their contracts, Mr Gauke said.

The Ministry of Justice will also pay £22 million over two years for services helping offenders immediately after they are released from prison.

Another nine million will be handed over in underpayments.

Officials claimed they have saved the taxpayer money because the MoJ had budgeted to pay firms £3.7billion to 2022 but will now pay out £2.2billion to 2020.

Critics say the public have been left more at risk by the scheme with some offenders not seen for weeks or months and others lost in the system altogether.

Mr Lawrence slammed what he believes is a deliberate attempt by Mr Gauke to avoid parliamentary scrutiny by launching its eight-week consultation during summer recess.

Amid much opposition from experts, then Justice Minister Chris Grayling introduced the £3.7billion Transforming Rehabilitation programme in 2014.

It created a National Probation Service to deal with high-risk offenders, with 163,000 medium and low-risk criminals assigned to 21 partly privatised Community Rehabilitation Companies.

The CRCs monitor all those released on licence from prison terms of a year or less or given community sentences by the courts.

But the payment-by-results scheme has resulted in the companies losing money while failing to provide basic support for offenders.

A consultation paper called Strengthening Probation, Building Confidence, released today (Friday) said the MoJ “recognise concerns about some current practice” and is “taking steps to change the CRC contracts to introduce a minimum requirement for providers to offer monthly face-to-face contact” with offenders.

Read More : Prisoners will be let out on early release to fill jobs left vacant after Brexit, Justice Secretary says

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