Back in January 2013, then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling was admirably clear about what he expected his “revolution in the way we manage offenders to achieve”. "My vision is very simple", he wrote . "When someone leaves prison, I want them already to have a mentor in place. I want them to be met at the prison gate, to have a place to live sorted out, to have a package of support set up, be it training or drug treatment or an employability course. I also want them to have someone they can turn to as a wise friend as they turn their lives around”. The private Community Rehabilitation Companies which were contracted to provide 70% of probation work were supposed to implement this simple vision.
Three and a half years on, the National Audit Office today reported on how Transforming Rehabilitation has been going. It includes this gobbledygook.
“Through the Gate’ resettlement services began on 1 May 2015; there have, however, been some initial problems associated with the ambitious delivery timescales. For example, some providers encountered challenges in accessing prisons and mobilising their resettlement suppliers. NOMS’ assurance checks found that providers initially focused too much on whether offenders complete the process, which is one of the CRC service levels, rather than the quality of their resettlement plans. NOMS has worked with CRCs to clarify what more they must do for offenders beyond simply completing an offender’s resettlement plans within a five-day period (20 of the 21 CRCs were meeting this target in December 2015) and signposting them to services”.
If you have trouble understanding what that means, you can find an illustration in the Prison Inspectorate’s report on HMP Lewes published earlier this week. They reported that 30% of prisoners were released homeless.Their survey of prisoners (carried out at the end of last year) found that a much lower proportion knew anyone in the prison who could help them on release than in 2012- whether with problems relating to accommodation, employment, finance, education or drugs.Somehow however the Inspectors reached the conclusion that “CRC arrangements had developed well”.
In similar vein the NAO flies in the face of their evidence by highlighting the successful restructuring of the probation landscape “within ministerial timescales and without major disruption to services”. The report makes much of the fact that more than three-quarters (77%) of service users said they had not noticed any change in the overall service they personally received. In fact more felt that the overall level of support and help with housing and accommodation had got worse rather than better.
But isn’t it a strange revolution when most of the people its designed to influence don’t notice any difference?