This government is committed to cutting crime, by improving how we protect the public from serious offenders and by tackling repeat offending. On Saturday 26 June we took a key step forward in delivering those aims with the launch of a new unified Probation Service for England and Wales. The additional investment of an extra £155m both last year and this year has been key to making these changes happen.
The new Service brings together staff from the previous National Probation Service (NPS) and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). It will strengthen public protection by bringing together management of offenders of all levels of risk into one organisation. It will deliver visible punishment and reparation to communities through an overhauled approach to unpaid work. And it will strengthen rehabilitation by delivering improved better accredited programmes and other rehabilitative interventions, alongside commissioning specialist services from other organisations. New National Standards for probation will set out expectations for how offenders are managed in order to reduce repeat offending and to ensure the public are protected.
I am grateful for the hard work and professionalism of probation staff in supporting the transition to the new Service, as a result of which we have successfully transferred nearly 8,000 staff and nearly 200 buildings to the new organisation and rolled out IT equipment for staff transferring.
Investment of £195m has now been awarded to 26 organisations across England and Wales to provide those specialist services, addressing needs relating to Accommodation, Education, Training and Employment, services which help offenders with personal issues such as mental health problems and Women’s services.
Having completed the transition to the new organisation, my priority is now to deliver improvements in the services probation delivers. Key work to do so includes improving sentence management by recruiting a record 1,000 new trainees last year and a further 1,500 officers this financial year to supervise offenders and help cut crime. This will reduce the average caseload size for probation officers so that the public can be better protected.
Other key work includes ensuring more support for victims of crime by extending and enhancing the service offered to victims. Creating a new framework for unpaid work placements will increase the value they bring to society, by cleaning up the environment and supporting communities, giving back to the communities they live in through litter picking, clearing fly tipping, removing graffiti and maintaining public spaces.
Further investment in digital services will help modernise the service, speeding up processes and helping to underpin and reinforce excellent standards of practice. I will improve support for offenders for issues like education, substance misuse and mental health issues to reduce the risk of them reoffending. Securing additional rehabilitative services to build on the contracts already implemented will help cut crime.
It is particularly impressive that we have been able to ensure readiness for transition, given the pressures faced as a result of the global pandemic. Unification represents an example of excellent delivery -a major, very complex Government project delivered on time, to budget against unprecedented global challenges and we are proud of the scale of that achievement. Our progress in delivering these crucial reforms will ensure a joined-up and improved Probation Service that is able to make a significant contribution to this Government’s mission to cut crime. We are determined that the Probation Service will simultaneously offer more support to those turning their backs on crime, while using every available tool to protect the public from those who are intent on continuing to commit crime.
This statement has also been made in the House of Lords