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Probation to be privatised via PbR – Grayling

£500m of probation contracts will be outsourced, justice secretary Chris Grayling has announced.

It is part of a Government drive to outsource more than half the work supervising criminals in the community and broaden rehabilitation services to the 45,000 people on sentences of less than a year.

Just under 60% of those on short-term sentences reoffend within a year.

21 contracts for the supervision of 235,000 will be put out to competition this year, divided regionally. The contracts will be awarded at the end of next year and use the Payments by Results (PbR) rewards system.

PbR has been criticised for tackling low-hanging fruit, instead of offering support for those who need it most. Grayling said that rewards would be based on performance of the whole cohort, not just individuals.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: “We have a system at the moment where only around 25% of probation time is spent working with offenders. There has got to be room for efficiency in the system – and for the big section that aren't getting support.

“This is all about ensuring we deliver real, long-term rehabilitation and support – that there's somebody, a mentor, to work alongside a prisoner for a good period of time.”

But Sue Hall, chair of the Probation Chiefs Association, said: “Payment by results is untried and untested in the community at the moment, where the supervision of offenders is concerned... we don't actually have any hard evidence.”

Andrew Neilson, of the Howard League for Penal Reform: “These plans set people up to fail. Rather than scrapping short prison terms, the government is creating disproportionate sentences for minor crimes, so that a two-week prison sentence becomes a year and two weeks of being trapped in the criminal justice system.”

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