Probation services play a vital role in the rehabilitation of nearly a quarter of a million offenders and in protecting the public from risks of serious harm.
The government has announced its intention to unify probation services and transfer cases from CRCs (Community Rehabilitation Services) to a centralised and publicly funded NPS (National Probation Service) This transition is commencing in June 2021 and is aim to increase efficiency and hence drive the costs down.
What the statistics are currently showing us is that the spending per person that is under supervision has dramatically fallen by 40% from £5,900 in 2003-2004 to around £3,550 in 2018-2019. Upon expectation it has come to light that most CRCs have had their budgets cut which has a knock on effect on the quality of the service they are able to deliver.
With reduced budgets it is becoming even more challenging to support people from re-offending. The Ministry of Justice’s figures show that 11,435 people were released from prison into straight into homelessness in 2018-2019, and that is including more than 3,700 higher-risk individuals.
Approved premises, which support the resettlement of higher-risk offenders on release from prison, are unable to meet demand and more places are needed.
In the review, ran by HMI Probation, of the case of Joseph McCann (June 2020) found probation staff were unable to find beds for him on two occasions, despite his status as a higher-risk and dangerous criminal. McCann ended up in unsuitable housing that did not allow close monitoring and management by probation services. The Ministry of Justice recently announced 200 more beds in Approved Premises – while this is positive, it fails to meet demand for places. There is also a pressing need for more funding to speed up repairs/maintenance in Approved Premises, as beds are frequently and frustratingly lost because of damage/poor upkeep.
Many (ex)offenders have complex needs and these can contribute towards offending behaviour. In an inspection in 2018-2019 found that probation services delivered sufficient services in just 41 per cent of cases involving alcohol misuse and 45 per cent of cases involving substance misuse. The rise in levels of Class A drug use is a driver for crime and cannot be ignored. Dame Carol Black’s independent review of drugs for the Department for Health and Social Care and the Home Office (2019-2020) found that while drug-related deaths are now at record levels, funding for treatment has reduced – by up to 40 per cent in some local authorities. There needs to be adequate and sustained funding for alcohol and substance misuse treatment in the community; it is impossible to address other aspects of offending behaviour without getting this right.
According to the Ministry of Justice’s figures (2019), the estimated economic and social cost
of reoffending was £18.1 billion over a 12-month period. If probation services continue to be underfunded, this will lead to poorer outcomes for society – more people at risk, more victims, and more communities blighted by crime.
Prioritising funding for probation services and associated services in the community will help
to cut the cycle of reoffending and support individuals to move towards crime-free lives.