Probation services are a key part of the criminal justice system. They are overseen by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), which is an executive agency within the Ministry of Justice.
Probation services are responsible for:
- Advising courts on sentencing decisions
- Supervising people in the community who have offended and been released from custody on license and people who have received community sentences
- Working with people in custody to prepare them for a life after release
- Monitoring the risk posed by people supervised in the community and ensuring the public is protected
- Planning and delivering rehabilitative support, often in partnership with voluntary sector organisations
- Enforcing compliance with court orders and licence conditions.
From 2015 to June 2021, under the Ministry of Justice’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme, probation services were delivered by the National Probation Service and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) across England and Wales.
Following a consultation on the probation system, in June 2021 all sentence management in England and Wales was brought back under the responsibility of the Probation Service.
There are 11 Probation Service areas in England and one Probation Service area in Wales, with each area overseen by a Regional Probation Director (RPD) who is responsible for the overall delivery and commissioning of probation services in their area.
Voluntary sector and private sector organisations are commissioned to deliver rehabilitation and resettlement services through the probation Dynamic Framework.
A limited number of rehabilitation and resettlement services were commissioned to go live on day one of the reunified model. These were contract lots for Accommodation; Education, training and employment; Personal wellbeing; and Women – specialist holistic services to support women under probation supervision.
Organisations bid for these contracts over a series of call-off competitions from August 2020, with successful organisations announced in May 2021.
From June 2021
Though competitions for day one services under the reformed probation model were conducted centrally by HMPPS, from June 2021, responsibility for commissioning services will lie with the Regional Probation Director (RPD) appointed in each Probation Service area.
For 2021-22 there is a total national budget across all 12 regional probation areas of £12.5m and RPDs are developing commissioning plans. Each regional probation area has been allocated funding for core sentence delivery services (i.e. the Finance, Benefits and Debt, and Dependency and Recovery service categories).
There is no assigned budget however for other service categories, (i.e. services for racially minoritised people, Restorative Justice and Cognitive and Behavioural Change).
The Regional Outcomes and Innovations Fund (ROIF) is available as an additional source of funding for non-enforceable activity. In 2021/22 this totals £5m nationally but will likely increase to £20m in 2024-5 across England and Wales.
The Ministry of Justice is currently reviewing how it procures Dependency and Recovery and Finance, Benefit and Debt services and is aiming to go out to tender in late 2021. To ensure providers are onboarded onto the Dynamic Framework for future competitions, the Ministry of Justice suggests that any providers delivering these services complete the Selection Questionnaire via the esourcing portal Jaggear.
Greater ManchesterHMPPS will not be procuring day one services for Greater Manchester through the Dynamic Framework. HMPPS are co-commissioning these services with Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and will be procuring them through GMCA procurement routes.
Initially, GMCA split the commissioning into five contract lots:
- Employment, Training & Education (ETE) and Finance, Benefit & Debt (FBD)
- Dependency & Recovery
- Personal Wellbeing - which has been split into three separate specifications
- Peer Support
- Emotional Support
- Family Support
GMCA has committed to working with Clinks and other voluntary sector leads in Greater Manchester to ensure that the sector has the resource to engage in the process. Clinks hosted some engagement and market warming events on behalf of GMCA at the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021 and we will continue to keep the voluntary sector informed and up to date of the procurement process.
GMCA is using The Chest portal to procure contracts - instructions on how to register and use the portal can be found by following the link. GMCA is holding market engagement events prior to the expression of interest stage opening for each tender. You can find out more about these here. Interested attendees must register for these events by completing an expression of interest via The Chest. If providers don't attend market engagement events, this doesn't preclude them from submitting an expression of interest in regards to the tender in order to then bid for the contract.
Reducing reoffending plans
Following the unification of the Probation Service in June, each of the 12 Regional Probation Directors (RPDs) has published a Regional Reducing Reoffending Plan, which sets out how they will work with partner organisations to cut crime and make communities safer by reducing reoffending. RPDs bring together direct delivery of sentence management, unpaid work and interventions with significant regional commissioning budgets for rehabilitative services. The plans, which will be renewed annually, allow RPDs to highlight specific priorities and ambitions for their individual regions. They also reflect and align with the broader HMPPS approach to reducing reoffending - strengthening supervision, engaging people in rehabilitative activity and improving the support they receive to resettle in the community.
Probation jargon - explained
The new probation system
- The Target Operating Model (TOM) sets out in detail the latest plans for how the future probation system will look.
- All responsibility for sentence management will move to the Probation Service.
- In each area, Probation Service operational delivery will be reorganised around Probation Delivery Units.
- There are 12 probation regions in England and Wales, and 12 Regional Probation Directors have been appointed to lead probation services in their region.
The commissioning process
- The dynamic framework is the mechanism through which rehabilitation and resettlement interventions will be procured for the future probation model. The framework is the main opportunity for voluntary organisations of all sizes to deliver services through the new probation system.
- Market warming is the stage where preparatory documents are released to potential bidders so they can prepare.
- Jaggaer is the esourcing portal/website (formally known as Bravo) through which documents on the commissioning process can be found and organisations can complete the qualification and call-off process.
- Qualification is the process by which organisations apply to be on the framework.
- The Selection Questionnaire (SQ) is something organisations must complete to qualify on the framework and will cover basic information about the organisation and the services they deliver.
- Call-off is the stage at which organisations can compete for a contract on the dynamic framework. Commissioners will announce their intention to run call-off for specific services, at which point organisations who have qualified onto the framework can compete for the specific contracts.
- Day one call-offs are for contracts to deliver core services that are needed from the first day of delivery of the new model.
- Service categories are the types of services that will be commissioned under the dynamic framework. There are 14 Service categories:
- Finance, Benefits and Debt
- Education, Training and Employment
- Dependency and Recovery
- Family and Significant Others
- Lifestyle and Associates
- Emotional Wellbeing
- Social Inclusion
- Young Adults (18-25 years old)
- Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME)
- Restorative Justice
- Cognitive and Behavioural Change
- Service User Involvement
- Prime providers/contractors work directly with the government to deliver services. They can subcontract work to other providers, manage subcontractors, and are responsible for ensuring that the work is completed as defined in the contract.
- Values refers to the overall cost of the service and the volume is the number of service users HMPPS are buying the service for.
- Accredited programmes are aimed at reducing reoffending. They are pre-set programmes that have been specifically designed to support desistance and have been approved by the MoJ through an accreditation process. The Thinking Skills and the Building Better Relationships programmes will be the most widely available under the new system, but a range of accredited programmes are available in each area.
- Structured interventions are aimed at people deemed to be of lower risk of harm and who do not meet the threshold of an accredited programme. The interventions have a fixed number of sessions and pre-set content that everyone receives.
- The Regional outcomes and innovation fund is an HMPPS fund which regional probation directors will be able to access to commission outcome-related services.
Voluntary organisations working in the criminal justice system have a long history of providing services that complement and supplement probation services. Indeed, the probation service has its roots in the voluntary sector.
In modern times, the role of voluntary organisations has become distinct from that of statutory probation services. Probation services are responsible for delivering the sentence of the court. Voluntary organisations provide wrap-around services to enable and support individuals to undertake and complete their sentence and go on to live fulfilling lives.
This support includes help with accommodation, employment and education, drug treatment, and debt advice as well as projects or services specifically for particular cohorts such as women and young adults.
Advising the Ministry of Justice
Throughout the development of the unified probation service Clinks has worked closely with Ministry of Justice and HMPPS to ensure that challenges and barriers for the involvement of the voluntary sector are recognised and removed.
Clinks provides the chair and secretariat for an advisory group to the Ministry of Justice. The Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group’s (RR3) purpose is to build a strong and effective partnership between the voluntary sector and the MoJ.
At various meetings with the Ministry of Justice, the RR3 has fed back its views about the review of probation. Read the meeting notes.
In 2016, the RR3 convened a special interest group on supporting effective mentoring through the gate to explore how to provide effective mentoring for men and women resettling in the community after a prison sentence. It considered the role and contribution of voluntary organisations in pioneering this approach and the impact of probation commissioning and contracting arrangements and funding on voluntary organisations’ ability to deliver effective mentoring. The group made recommendations to voluntary groups, the Ministry of Justice and other relevant parties.
In April 2020, the Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3) set up a special interest group on probation, to provide a formal avenue to channel voluntary sector advice to HMPPS, ahead of the planned implementation of a reformed probation model. Read the latest notes from this special interest group here
To mark the launch of the reformed probation model in June 2021, the Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3) special interest group on probation reform has published its final report.
The report reflects on the key learnings from the group, which we hope can help shape improved commissioning processes and better partnership working in future probation services.
We continue to engage with MoJ, HMPPS and Regional Probation Directors to ensure the voluntary sector is a central partner to the Probation Service.
Latest on Twitter
It is imperative that government prioritises and resources the tackling of race inequality in the criminal justice system. It is crucial that voluntary orgs led by and focussed on racially minoritised people are listened to, taken seriously and consulted in these conversations. https://twitter.com/HMIProbation/status/1451073306791223296