South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner speaks out over offender management shake-up

Dr Alan Billings
Dr Alan Billings

A shake-up of offender management is causing 'anxiety', according to South Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner.

Dr Alan Billings spoke out after the Government announced it is ending the contracts with private companies that manage medium and low risk offenders in the community two years early - at a cost of £170 million.

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The contracts with the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies were due to run until 2022, but will now end in 2020.

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The Government wants to replace them with 10 new contracts.

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Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner said: "It will be hard for Police and Crime Commissioners across the country to resist saying to the government 'we told you so'.

"We were never convinced that breaking up the probation service was sensible, and this has proved right.

"This is not a criticism of those who work in the South Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company. They have worked extremely hard at getting things right and reducing re-offending. The need for change is the result of systematic contractual problems, rather than a reflection of how staff and providers have delivered.

"A better solution would be to give the funding to Police and Crime Commissioners and allow them to commission locally with realistic and sensible criteria for measuring success.

"Above all, we need a period of stability. Managing offenders in the community is something the public needs to have confidence in but these constant shake-ups and experiments create anxieties."

The arrangements for managing offenders changed in 2014, when the probation service was split in two.

A new state body, the National Probation Service, was set up to supervise high-risk offenders and 21 privately run Community Rehabilitation Companies took over the supervision of low and medium-risk offenders.

But Justice Secretary David Gauke said several CRCs had made 'very substantial losses'.

He said the amount of work available for some CRCs had been 'lower than anticipated and that has had an impact in terms of their income and the services they are able to provide'.