National Probation Service in England and Wales

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< Ministry of Justice < HM Prison and Probation Service < National Probation Service in England and Wales

The National Probation Service was established in Jun.2014, alongside 21 § Community Rehabilitation Companies. The NPS supervises high-risk offenders released into the community; whereas the CRCs manage low and medium risk offenders. Together, the NPS and the CRCs have replaced the former 35 probation trusts.

The NPS is part of HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice. The NPS is subject to scrutiny by HMPPS, which reports to govt ministers; and by HM Inspectorate of Probation.

  • May.16.2019: Justice Secretary announces new model for probation. National Probation Service to take over responsibility for all offender management. Justice Secretary David Gauke outlined proposals for a new model. Each NPS region will have a dedicated, private or voluntary sector ‘Innovation Partner’, responsible for direct provision of unpaid work and accredited programmes. The proposed reforms will also transform the use of technology in probation, investing in a digital and data strategy. The new model will come into effect in Spring 2021., Press Release.

Timeline: 2007 —

Aug.2018Exra cost to taxpayers so far: £682m = £170m (Jul.2018) + £115m (waiver of penalties) + £278m (Aug.2017) + £46m (propping up "through the gate" services) + £9m (correction of underpayments) + £22m (Apr.2017) + £42m (Apr.2016).
Jul.2018David Gauke announced that the 8 private § Community Rehabilitation Companies running the 21 CRCs will have their contracts terminated in 2020, 2 years early. Gauke proposed the CRCs be reduced to 11, with 10 new probation regions to be formed in England, plus 1 extra in Wales. Offender management will be taken back under public control in Wales, but in England the govt is insisting on putting the contracts out to tender for 2020 onwards.[1] The CRCs are to be given another £170m to cover huge losses.[2]
Jun.2018The Justice Select Committee published a damning report on Grayling's reforms, and urged a complete review on the future of the entire probation sector.[3] The proven reoffending rate currently stands at 29%, up from 26% in 2013/14. Offenders are being made to carry out meaningless unpaid work, eg. moving mud from one pile to another in graveyards, or turning up to placements and finding no one there.[4]
Apr.2018An Inspectorate of Probation report strongly criticised Grayling's reforms.[5] Govt has allowed CRCs immense freedoms; "black box" contracts allow CRCs to decide what services to offer – and delivery is sparse. CRCs are not sub-contracting services to the Third SectorWikipedia-W.svg due to their own financial instability, a result of Grayling's payment-by-results model. Grayling's hopes that Third Sector organisations would wholly run some CRCs were dashed, as they are barred from bidding due to the financial guarantees demanded by govt. Prisons minister Rory Stewart said "I want probation to work better".[6]
Jan.2018The private firms are in trouble, facing losses of £443m by 2022. Richard Heaton, permanent secretary to the MoJ[7] and Michael Spurr, CEO of the HM Prison and Probation Service, appeared before the Commons Public Accounts Committee to explain why they have wasted nearly £2.5bn of taxpayer's money. Why is the govt agreeing to spend £342m keeping these companies in business? Surely we should be demanding our money back – they are in breach of contract.[8][9]
Jan.2018 David Gauke appointed Justice Secretary
Dec.2017Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey said Grayling's reforms had led to tens of thousands of offenders – up to 40% of the total – being supervised by telephone calls every 6 weeks, instead of face-to-face meetings. Performance of the publicly-run National Probation Service was rated "good", but the 21 CRCs which supervise the majority of the 260,000 offenders on probation every year, is "much more troubling". The CRCs supervise mainly medium-ris offenders, not low-risk as had been originally intended.[10]
Aug.2017£278m additional payments (bailouts) were agreed by the MoJ, if no prisoners re-offend.[11]
Jun.2017A report on the companies' performance summarised that they "are so bad, and so useless they might as well not exist". More seriously, concerns were raised about the financial stability of the companies, the quality of rehabilitation, as well as their having released unsuitable prisoners without supervision.[12]
Jun.2017 David Lidington appointed Justice Secretary
Apr.2017£22m additional "helping hand" was given to 14 CRCs, for Apr.2017–Jul.2017.[11]
HM Prison and Probation Service: NOMS was renamed as HM Prison and Probation Service. Responsibility for commissioning services, development of policy and setting standards passed from NOMS to the MoJ. ref
Conservatives (May)
Elizabeth Truss appointed Justice Secretary.
The NAO conducted an audit of the "Transforming Rehabilitation" reform,[13] and found that the MoJ had over-estimated the no. of low risk ex-offenders, and under-estimated the no. of high risk ex-offenders. This meant the CRCs were dealing with fewer people and therefore would receive £1.6bn less. Overall, the NAO was unimpressed.
£42m gift to the CRCs for dealing with fewer offenders was handed over by the MoJ (for Apr.2016–Mar.2017).[11]
Conservatives (Cameron)
Michael Gove appointed Justice Secretary.
Feb.2015Ownership of the CRCs was transferred from the public sector to the 8 new rehabilitation providers.[14] One special share in each of the 21 CRCs was retained by the Justice Secretary.[15] Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014.
Dec.2014Grayling privatised the CRCs by transferring them to 8 suppliers working under contracts managed by NOMS. The MoJ allocated a budget of £3.7bn for 2015—2022, to be shared between the 21 CRCs.
Jun.2014 Grayling introduced his "Transforming Rehabilitation" reforms by dissolving 35 self-governing probation trusts, and creating a public sector National Probation Service (NPS) and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs). The NPS deals with high-risk offenders, and the CRCs supervise offenders serving 12+ months who present a low or medium risk of harm. A drive for efficiencies underpins the reforms.[16]
Dec.2013The Probation Service pubished a risk assessment on Grayling's plans to allow the private sector and voluntary groups to run its offender management programme. The report estimated that there was a 100% risk that the programme would not "be delivered either in scope or within the timescale set by ministers". As a result, offenders will pose a "higher risk to the public" and there will be "poorer outcomes" for victims and communities. Justice minister Jeremy Wright insisted the govt was "on track" to deliver its probation reforms.[17]
May.2013Payment by results: Supervision of 88% of offenders on community penalties and post-prison supervision were to be opened up to competition for 10-year contracts, on a "payment by results basis". Public sector probation trusts were banned from bidding; many chose to turns themselves into "public service mutuals" to mount bids alongside companies such as G4S and Serco.[18]
Sep.2012 Chris Grayling appointed Justice Secretary at the Ministry of Justice after David Cameron's right-lurching Cabinet reshuffle.[19] Unsurprisingly, the Centre for Social Justice voiced their approval of his appointment. The Prison Reform Trust's comment was far less effusive.[20]

Community Rehabilitation Companies


There are 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs); eight firms supply services to the CRCs. See also Community Rehabilitation Company CommunityWikipedia-W.svg, National Probation Service & Community Rehabilitation Company maps.

  1.      Sodexo Justice Services – in partnership with Nacro
  2.      Reducing Re-offending Partnership – Ingeus UK + St Giles Trust
  3.      Working Links – Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire (BGSW), Dorset, Devon and Cornwall (DDC), Wales
  4.      Achieving Real Change for Communities (ARCC) – a consortia with probation staff
  5.      MTCnovo – MTC, RISE, Band of Brothers, NOVUS, Thames Valley Partnership and Amey
  6.      Purple FuturesInterserve-led partnership with 3SC, P3 and Shelter
  7.      PeoplePlus Justice
  8.      Seetec Justice
Further Information
Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) Owner Contact Information. Clinks. Apr.2016
The Transforming Rehabilitation Programme, New Owners of the Community Rehabilitation Companies. Dec.18.2014

Cons/LibDem (Cameron/Clegg)
Kenneth Clarke appointed Justice Secretary.
Apr.2008The National Offender Management Service was established as an executive agency of the MoJ, merging the Prison Service and NOMS. It was responsible for commissioning and delivering competitive prison and probation services.[21] The transformation of Probation Boards into 35 Probation Trusts commenced, with the first six being established.[22]
Jul.2007The responsibility to arrange provision of probation services was transferred to the Secretary of State, who could then commission most services directly from the private and voluntary sectors as well as the public sector. The rationale behind this transfer of powers from local Probation Boards was that it "stunted the growth of contestability". Offender Management Act 2007.[23]
Labour (Brown)
Jack Straw appointed Justice Secretary.

Beginnings — 2007

The environment within which practitioners and local managers operate has changed dramatically over 100 years. The first probation officers had no managers – today, work is constantly checked and monitored. This has led to the erosion of professional practice in favour of a managerially driven organisation. (1.2 Important developments.)[24]

May.2007The Ministry of Justice was created, and took over responsibility for Prisons and Probation from the Home Office. Charles FalconerWikipedia-W.svg was appointed Justice Secretary.
Jun.2004National Offender Management Service (NOMS) was established with the twin aims of (1) reducing re-offending and (2) providing end-to-end management of offenders. At the heart of NOMS was the premise that the market depended on a purchaser-provider split ie, the separation of the management of offenders from the provision of services.[22] The govt introduced "commissioning and contestability" into the provision of probation services, which it said would drive up standards among existing providers, and enable new providers to deliver services, as it had for public sector prisons since 1991. Napo was highly critical of the speed of the decision to introduce NOMS, and the lack of prior consultation.
2003The movement away from "advise, assist and befriend" was further cemented by the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which defined the purposes of sentencing as: the punishment of offenders; crime reduction; the reform and rehabilitation of offenders; the protection of the public; and the making of reparation by offenders to persons affected by their crimes. Nevertheless, staff continued to emphasise the original values, especially a belief in the possibility of personal change, and scepticism about the value of prison as the way to reduce crime.[25][26]
The 1st Carter Report found that the increased use of prison and probation had a limited impact on crime. It was strongly critical of the separation between the prison and probation services, and recommended the establishment of a National Offender Management Service to provide "end-to-end management", within a framework of "greater contestability, using providers of prison and probation from across the public, private and voluntary sectors".[22][27]
Jul.2002The high rate of re-offending was a serious concern. Three major factors were identified: (a) an erosion in post-release support for short-term prisoners, (b) a sharp rise in social exclusion, in areas such as child poverty, drug use, school exclusion and inequality, (c) changes in benefit rules for prisoners. The lack of a unified rehabilitation strategy was criticised.[28]
Apr.2001The National Probation Service for England and Wales was established. The Probation Service was renamed; 42 local Probation Boards replaced the 54 Probation Committees, and 100% funding by the Home Office was established. A legal basis for national standards was established, which practitioners are expected to meet. [24]Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000.
Labour (Blair)
The Youth Justice Board was created to oversee strategy, and Youth Offending Teams worked in an inter-agency way with the offenders. Previously probation staff had worked exclusively with young offenders, but now the probation service became focused on adults. Crime and Disorder Act 1998.
ToDo: "The govt believes that public sector prisons have delivered better value for money and more effective services since they were exposed to competition in 1991. They have argued that the probation service will benefit from similar treatment."
Conservatives (Major)
The focus of training of Probation Officers changed towards enforcement, rehabilitation and public protection, when the govt decided that "advise, assist and befriend" was an inappropriate way to understand the work of the service.[26]
1970s‑1980sPartnerships with other agencies resulted in Cautioning schemes, alternatives to custody, and crime reduction; changes in sentencing resulted in Day Centres, special programme conditions, the Probation Order as a sentence, and risk of custody and risk of reconviction assessment tools.[29]
Labour (Wilson)
The Parole Board was established to advise the Home Secretary on the release of offenders on licence under the supervision of the Probation Service. (Criminal Justice Act 1967).
Conservatives (Chamberlain)
The Home Office assumed control of the Probation Service and introduced a wide range of modernising reforms.[30]
Conservatives (Baldwin)
Full-time Probation Officers were appointed; formerly, they had been part-time. Formal training was developed. Probation Rules 1926.[31]
1909The Departmental Committee of the Home Office stated that the success and efficiency of the new probation system primarily depended upon the person and character of the Probation Officer. "It is a system in which rules are comparatively unimportant, and that personality is everything. The probation officer must be a picked man or woman, endowed not only with intelligence and zeal, but, in a high degree, with sympathy, tact and firmness. On his or her individuality the success or failure of the system depends. Probation is what the officer makes it."
Liberals (Asquith)
The Borstal System was established. This was a semi-indeterminate custodial sentence for young offenders, followed by supervision in the community. Probation Officers ultimately became responsible for delivering this supervision. Prevention of Crime Act 1908.[24]
Liberals (Campbell-Bannerman)
Probation Service: Magistrates Courts appointed and employed Probation Officers, to work with offenders and to "advise, assist and befriend" those placed under supervision by the courts. Probation of Offenders Act 1907.[29]
19th CCourt Missionaries were appointed to the London Police Courts by voluntary societies, led by the Church of England Temperance SocietyWikipedia-W.svg. Offenders were released on condition that they kept in touch with the missionary and accepted guidance.[29]


  1. ^ Private probation companies to have contracts ended early. David Gauke has announced that early termination of contracts with the 8 private firms that run the 21 CRCs. Gauke proposes reforms. The govt insists the private sector has a role to play. The Guardian, Jamie Grierson. Jul.27.2018
  2. ^ Private probation companies given extra £170m as government scraps ‘catastrophic’ contracts. The Independent, Lizzie Dearden. Jul.27.2018
  3. ^ Part-privatisation of probation sector 'is a mess', MPs say. Justice Committee publishes damning report on overhaul instituted by Chris Grayling and urges MoJ review. The part-privatisation of the probation sector is a “mess” and may never work. The committee has recommended the Ministry of Justice review the future of the entire probation sector and consider fresh alternatives. Prisons Minister Rory Stewart defended the programme. The Guardian, Jamie Frierson. Jun.22.2018
  4. ^ Government must overhaul 'mess' of privatised probation system, inquiry finds. The Independent, Lizzie Dearden. Jun.22.2018
  5. ^ Probation Supply Chains. HM Inspectorate of Probation, Dame Glenys Stacey. Apr.17.2018
  6. ^ Ex-offenders face bleak future after reforms fail, report says. The Guardian, Jamie Grierson. Apr.17.2018
  7. ^ New Permanent Secretary at Ministry of Justice announced. Ministry of Justice. Accessed Jan.12.2018.
  8. ^ The Great £300m Probation Bail Out: You Pay, They Prey. David Hencke. Jan.12.2018
  9. ^ MPs are asking why probation privatisation cost billions and helped nobody. Vox Political, Mike Sivier. Jan.14.2018
  10. ^ Private probation firms criticised for supervising offenders by phone. Probation chief voices concern over lack of face-to-face meetings as report reveals privatised sector is struggling to deliver. The Guardian, Alan Travis. Dec.14.2017
  11. ^ a b c Investigation into changes to Community Rehabilitation Company contracts National Audit Office, NAO Report. Dec.19.2017
  12. ^ An Inspection of Through the Gate Resettlement Services for Prisoners Serving 12 Months or More. Criminal Justice Inspectorates, Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation and Peter Clarke, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. Jun.21.2017
  13. ^ Transforming Rehabilitation. National Audit Office, NAO Report. Apr.28.2016
  14. ^ Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014. See also Clinks Briefing: The Offender Rehabilitation Act Accessed Jan.12.2018.
  15. ^ National Offender Management Service Annual Report and Accounts, 2015-2016, Special Shares, page 107. Jul.07.2016
  16. ^ Transforming Rehabilitation. Voluntary Organisations Network Northeast (VONNE). Accessed Jan.12.2018.
  17. ^ Probation privatisation plans will put 'public at higher risk'. Internal review finds coalition reforms will bring 'poorer service'. The Guardian, Jamie Doward. Dec.15.2013
  18. ^ Public sector probation trusts to become public service mutuals. The Guardian, Alan Travis. May.09.2013
  19. ^ David Cameron's right turn in cabinet reshuffle. The prime minister shifted his government firmly to the right in a substantial government reshuffle that left Nick Clegg weakened. The Guardian, Patrick Wintour, Nicholas Watt. Sept.04.2012
  20. ^ Chris Grayling appointed justice secretary in sop to Conservative right. The Telegraph, Christopher Hope. Sept.04.2012
  21. ^ NOMS Business Plan, 2011-2012 Ministry of Justice, National Offender Management Service. Apr.2011
  22. ^ a b c The Role of the Probation Service., Justice Committee. Jul.2011
  23. ^ Offender Management Act 2007 Jul.2007
  24. ^ a b c Probation in Europe, Chapter 9: England and Wales. Confederation of Europe Probation, Roger McCarva. Mar.2015
  25. ^ Select Committee on Home Affairs First Report. The new sentencing framework, Criminal Justice Act 2003. Jul.2002
  26. ^ a b A short history of the Probation Service. InsideTime, Charles Hanson. Feb.01.2014
  27. ^ Select Committee on Home Affairs First Report. Managing Offenders, Reducing Crime: A New Approach, Patrick Carter Jul.2002
  28. ^ Select Committee on Home Affairs First Report. Reducing re-offending by ex-prisoners, Social Exclusion Unit. Jul.2002
  29. ^ a b c A Brief History of Probation. Probation Association. Original archived on Sept.29.2007.
  30. ^ Timeline: A history of probation. The Guardian. May.02.2007
  31. ^ Probation in Europe, 1927. Confederation of Europe Probation. Accessed Oct.24.2018.