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Grayling proposes payment by results for probation

Private firms will be able to bid for probation services on a payment by results basis, justice secretary Chris Grayling is to announce.

Critics have said the plans amount to “breaking up the probation service” and say they will put the public at risk.

The new contracts will transfer responsibility for monitoring around 200,000 medium-risk and low-risk offenders to the private sector or voluntary organisations. The Government is offering £500,000 to voluntary and community sector groups to help them prepare to bid for contracts.

Prisoners serving sentences under 12 months will also have to undertake compulsory rehabilitation, including mentoring and statutory supervision. Currently, this support is voluntary.

The Ministry of Justice has stated that the move could cut reoffending – which is currently at a rate of 50%, with around £1bn spent on probation each year.

Grayling said: “What we do at the moment is send people out of prison with £46 in their pocket, and no support at all.

“No wonder we have such high levels of re-offending. It is madness to carry on with the same old system and hope for a different result.

“We know across the public, private and voluntary sectors there is a wealth of expertise and experience – we need to unlock that so we can finally begin to bring down our stubbornly high re-offending rates.”

But shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: “Payment by results in criminal justice is untested, and the Tory-led government are taking a reckless gamble with public safety.”

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “When it comes to cutting re-offending, Ministry of Justice figures show that community sentences are outperforming short jail sentences by almost 10%.

“Why not build on the success of joint work by probation, police and voluntary organisations, rather than break up the probation service and put the public at risk?”

The proposals are out to consultation for six weeks, with the final reforms expected to be set out later this year. They could be implemented across England and Wales by spring 2015.

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