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Probation services

Probation practitioners supervise offenders in the community and oversee their rehabilitation. People on probation are supervised while serving a non-custodial sentence or following their release from prison on licence.

The new model

A new model for probation services in England and Wales will be brought in from June 2021 when current contracts for Community Rehabilitation Companies end.  Under the new model, from 26 June 2021, all sentence management for low, medium and high-risk offenders will be carried out by the National Probation Service. Unpaid work, accredited programmes, other interventions and resettlement services will also be delivered by the National Probation Service.

The National Probation Service will be able to commission some services from the private and/or third sectors. The Dynamic Framework, a commissioning mechanism, will allow regional probation directors to procure rehabilitation services, for example, in relation to accommodation, employment and training.

Probation services will be organised around 12 regions (including Wales) and overseen by a Regional Probation Director with accountability for both the National Probation Service and contracted delivery.  In Wales sentence management was unified in December 2019 when all case management activity moved to the National Probation Service.

The new model has been broadly welcomed with many expressing the hope that it will bring some stability to probation services.

Reversal of earlier reforms

The new model will largely reverse the heavily criticised reforms of probation services that took place from 2014. These reforms, known as “Transforming Rehabilitation” divided the probation service into two: The National Probation Service and Community Rehabilitation Companies.

The transition

Concerns have been raised about the transition from the old to new model. The Chief Inspector of Probation said the timeline was ambitious and that the pandemic had added further complexity to the schedule. In May 2021 HM Inspectorate found that the reforms were broadly on track but raised some concerns regarding staffing and services.

This briefing applies to England and Wales.

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