Government announces new offender rehabilitation contracts

Work with offenders on details of the new probation contracts

The Ministry of Justice has announced the long-awaited results from the new probation commissioning system designed to engage specialist organisations to provide a range of services to people supervised by the probation service. The announcement, which comes just five weeks before the public and private components of the service are reunified on June 26, gives details about services in a number of categories including: housing, employment and training, issues including mental health, family and relationships and dedicated women’s services.

The total investment is £195 million over the next three year period.

The awards, decided by the new probation Dynamic Purchasing Framework, include almost £46 million to charities which provide wraparound support to women in the criminal justice system, acknowledging the complex array of issues female offenders particularly face. Organisations including The Nelson Trust, Women in Prison, and a partnership between the St Giles Trust and the Wise Group will work with vulnerable women to help them get their lives back on track. This funding will be gratefully received since overall funding to Women’s Centres has fallen considerably over recent years.

The massive shortage of appropriate housing for prison leavers has been well known for many years. However, the pandemic and concerns that people leaving prison with the virus might not be able to self-isolate has pushed the issue even further up the political agenda. Unsurprisingly, prison leavers are around 50 per cent more likely to reoffend if released with nowhere to stay. Funding just over £33 million will be shared by charities helping the homeless, including St Mungo’s, Shelter and NACRO. Their work will help get offenders off the streets into stable accommodation and work alongside the Probation Service’s new temporary accommodation service.

A further £33 million has been awarded to mainly large private companies such as Seetec, Maximus and Ingeus to provide offenders with skills training and employment support. Seetec and Ingeus in particular will be glad of securing the funding as they currently run Community Rehabilitation Companies which will be closed down on 25 June as part of the reunification process. These organisations will partner with probation staff and the New Futures Network in the Prison Service to support offenders into jobs.

“Up to £118 million” has been awarded to organisations which work with offenders to address personal issues, including Catch 22, The Forward Trust and The Growth Company. The services range from support accessing mental health services to help with managing complex family relationships. This funding reflects a growing acknowledgement of the large numbers of people in contact with the criminal justice system who have unmet needs in these areas.

There has been a mixed model in the commissioning process. Some services (for women and the personal support services) have been procured at the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) level. This process makes it easier to develop an integrated and co-ordinated approach on a local basis.

However, the housing and employment services have been commissioned on a regional basis in England. The new National Probation Service structure has eleven English regions plus a separate region for Wales. In Wales there is one contract for employment and training services but housing support has been commissioned at a PCC level.

Most of the contracts are awarded for two years and 9 months – to the end of the 2023/24 financial year although the women’s services are let for one year longer, to the end of 2024/25 which will provide them with some stability for forward planning.

Arrangements are different in Greater Manchester and London. For the first time, the Probation Service is jointly commissioning the full range of rehabilitative services in Greater Manchester with the region’s Combined Authority from July 2021. In London, women’s services will be commissioned jointly with the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) by providing funding to MOPAC’s existing providers for an extension and expansion of the current service. A new commissioning process will be undertaken for services from 2022.

You can see the full list of providers here.