Today, Ian Lawrence General Secretary gave oral evidence to the Justice Select Committee who are currently holding a series of sessions looking at TR and the current position of probation providers.
The Committee have heard from a number of witnesses already, including CRCs and third sector organisations. Today they heard evidence from Napo, Unison and the Probation Institute as well as two more CRCs.
The big question on the committee’s minds was “who’s fault is this and how can we fix it?”
Ian Lawrence did not hesitate to say that Napo had predicted and warned the MOJ of the risks that are now becoming a reality but they would not listen to us. The big factor for current service delivery is the poor quality of the operating models that the government signed off and the flawed payment mechanism that all parties agree do not work.
The impending Probation System Review was a big topic for discussion. Ian Lawrence pointed out the risks of a simple quick fix, throwing more money at a deeply flawed system and pressed the committee to scrutinise the review when it is published as so far it has not been a transparent process.
This sentiment was echoed by other witnesses and a need to ensure that the review is the first stage of a whole system anslysis that is needed if the new system is going to work. A sticking plaster to help CRCs limp to the end of their contracts would not be acceptable.
Professional standards were raised again by the committee. There is now growing support for an independent regulator and a licence to practice to have oversight of the system. Napo will be speaking to stakeholders to develop this idea further.
The committee asked about staff morale and Ian Lawrence highlighted the enormous change staff have been through, the excessive workloads and flawed operating models they are trying to work within, and a need for an overdue pay review that will bring probation staff in line with other professions.
The key message from the session was that the CRCs need financial stability in order to run effectively but this must done in a transparent way. There are real concerns about further job cuts and the Government will need to intervene or risk losing an entire profession. But there also has to be a whole system review to ensure that this model can work and that contracts should come back into the public sector if they are not workable.
We will update members on further evidence sessions and of course if the committee decide to hold an inquiry – Fingers crossed