On probation

I came accross this simple chart to summarise the privatisation of much of the probation service which shows what a complete disaster it has been:

(Note: CRCs are Community Rehabilitation Companies: NPS is the National Probation Service – the bit that is still state run; TR is Transforming Rehabilitation; MoJ is the Ministry of Justice. Double click to enlarge).

The Public Accounts Committee has published its third report into Mr Grayling’s disastrous probation reforms, for which, it should be noted at least in passing, there has never, ever been any evidence of their ability to improve rehabilitaition – and seemingly none was ever sought.

The report’s summary states:

In its haste to rush through its reforms at breakneck speed the Ministry of Justice not only failed to deliver its ‘rehabilitation revolution’ but left probation services underfunded, fragile, and lacking the confidence of the courts. Inexcusably, probation services have been left in a worse position than they were in before the Ministry embarked on its reforms…..

….Mismanagement, risk taking and the lack of properly considered planning has badly let down offenders and there has been no noticeable improvement in the support offered to offenders since these reforms were first implemented, and they have failed to reduce reoffending by as much as expected, with the average number of reoffences committed by each reoffender actually increasing. Through the Gate (TTG) services fail to address needs like stable and suitable accommodation and, in some cases, offenders have been provided with tents and left with no fixed address on release from prison. This will ultimately cost the taxpayer more as costs are shunted elsewhere in the system. The Ministry says it has learned lessons, but it now needs to show that it is putting them into practice and urgently making desperately needed improvements to probation services.

They also note that there has been a loss of magistrates’ confidence in community sentences, which, for minor offences had, under the old system,  begun to prove effective.

Everything about the plan – if indeed it can be so christened – was implausible or downright wrong – as well as being more expensive. It has unquestionably ruined some lives and played fast and lose with the security of society. It is never something that any ministry should have been involved with, let alone one that calls itself the Ministry of Justice. It was pure dogma.There was never any evidence based policy involved.

Even the right wing think tanks had never got around to finding any – or even embarking on their frequent speciality – making it up. (I consider that their consummate skill seems to be to plausibly frame half truths, misunderstandings and misrepresentations as evidence, together, of course, with never being honest about where their funding comes from).

Indeed, in Simon Wren-Lewis’s latest piece ‘Why are we governed by incompetents?’ the reform of the Probation Service is, rightly cited as a shining example for evidence that we are.

He goes on to suggest that most right wing think tanks are designed to turn the ideology of neoliberalism into policy based evidence.

I’m sure that if there had been a speck of evidence that privatisation of probation had improved anything at all those same think tanks could have been relied on to oblige.

Most regrettably, the charade continues with the FT reporting that:

The Ministry of Defence is pushing ahead with outsourcing its fire and rescue services despite a costly legal wrangle over the awarding of the contract and a series of high-profile failures of privatised public services. The privatisation was put on hold after Serco challenged the £500m, 12-year award to rival Capita last summer. Its decision followed a Financial Times report that Capita had received the highest possible risk rating in an assessment by external advisers for the MoD.

We are clearly run by incompetent dogmatists.

And we are the experiment.