Probation in Derbyshire has 'slipped' after reforms, says report

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Supervision of criminals in Derbyshire has got worse since the government out-sourced parts of the probation service, the chief inspector of probation says.

Dame Glenys Stacey said the standard of some services in the county was now "significantly lower" than before.

In 2014, the government replaced probation trusts in England and Wales with 21 rehabilitation companies, made up of private firms and charities.

A Probation Service spokesperson said it would "monitor performance closely".

Probation reforms, implemented by the then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, overhauled the supervision of released prisoners and people serving community sentences in England and Wales.

As part of the changes, the probation service was split in two, with community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) supervising low and medium-risk offenders.

At the same time a National Probation Service (NPS) took over the supervision of high-risk offenders.

'Significantly lower'

In one of her first inspection reports since the new system was introduced, Dame Glenys says she found no evidence that public protection was being made a priority by Reducing Reoffending Partnership - the CRC that won the contract in four counties in the East Midlands.

Her report said the "quality of work" provided by the company in Derbyshire was "significantly lower" than it was under the former Probation Trust - describing it as "poor" in some areas.

Dame Glenys said many staff felt the new approach to rehabilitation was "not yet a reality".

She said the CRC had "ambitious plans for an effective and modern probation service, to make a difference to people's life chances and reduce re-offending".

However, she said the implementation of the changes has been "troublesome and slow" and that "standards have slipped".

"Leaders do need to focus on delivering good quality services today as well as improving tomorrow," she said.

She went on: "The public can be reassured, however, that the National Probation Service in Derbyshire is managing high-risk offenders well."

Letting people down

Catherine Holland, chief executive of Reducing Reoffending Partnership, said the probation team in Derbyshire was working hard to keep the public safe "by reducing reoffending".

"We welcome this inspection report which identifies recommendations and many areas of good practice. We will use its findings to further strengthen our work," she said.

A government spokesman said "public protection and reducing reoffending will always be our priority.

"We hold providers rigorously to account for their performance and insisted a robust action plan was developed by the CRC. We will continue to monitor performance closely."

However, Andrew Neilson, from the Howard League for Penal Reform, said the report indicated the probation service was "letting down people who are trying to change their lives."

"The Howard League warned that ministers were taking a huge risk by dismantling a service that was performing well. We remain of that view," he added.

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