Probation changes : will they work?
Social work and rehabilitation
There are a substantial body of people worried about the privatisation of social work and the drifting away of the profession to be governed by the market place. In work and historical terms the probation service is a close cousin of social work. Now they too are in the final throes of major change. With many being transferred to what are going to be called Community Rehabilitation Companies and others are going to be employed by the national probation service which will supervise serious offenders who have committed crimes of violence or serious sex offences.
Those going to the outsourced private companies will deal with offenders sentenced to 12 months or less. Each offender will attract a fee and if the rehabilitation is successful and re-offending is reduced then the company will get a bonus. I gather that at least 500-600 staff have appealed the positioned they’ve been allocated to and just over 100 have been successful.
The whole process of privatisation, target driven, market dominated supervision does not sit comfortably with the original social aspirations of the probation service. On a very superficial level you can understand people wanting less offending in the community – there’s no argument with that. But how you maintain that with fewer staff and tighter targets will only remain to be seen.
I would like to know where else in the world this model is implemented and been successful as I must admit anything to reduce the numbers incarcerated in the UK would be a great development. I believe that we lock up more people in the UK than any other European country and so you would have to argue that previous efforts at overhauling our system cant really have been that successful unless you are saying that inherently society in the UK is more criminally minded than anywhere else on the continent.
As a matter of interest, I would be fascinated to hear you, your answers to the questions I just posed:
- where else this model works?
- why Britain has more people imprisoned than anywhere else proportionate to the population?
- why we now think that targets and incentive driven business models will address the problem?
There’s bound to be communication problems now between the different divisions of supervising companies and so it is unlikely to foster coherence in rehabilitation terms.
I wonder just how many repeat offenders will cooperate with the rehabilitation company in helping their supervising officer get a bonus.