102 Petty France
London SW1H 9AJ
19 August 2014
Dear Mr Guilfoyle,
Thank you for your emails of 26 June and 4 October 2013 to the Ministry of Justice regarding the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. I have been asked to reply on behalf of the Department. I note that there has been a delay in replying to your emails. We receive large volumes of correspondence on the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms and we strive wherever possible to provide prompt replies. Please accept my apologies for the fact that we have not responded promptly in this instance.
In your email of 4 October 2013 you enquired about the World Congress on Probation that took place 8-10 October 2013 and the speech given by the Secretary of State for Justice. The Justice Secretary spoke about the history of Probation in England and Wales, the success of the service in recent years and of the need to act to reduce recidivism further. He laid out the Government’s plans to transform the probation service, including the extension of statutory supervision to offenders sentenced to less than 12 months, the provision of ‘through the prison gate services’, and the opening up of the market to a variety of providers. The Secretary of State did not take questions as part of his presentation, but it might be helpful if I briefly recap the rationale for these reforms.
We spend almost £3billion a year on prisons, and just under £1billion annually on delivering sentences in the community. Despite this investment, overall reoffending rates have barely changed over the last decade. It is true that over recent years Probation Trusts have improved performance and this is a tribute to the hard work of Probation staff at all levels. Nevertheless rates of reoffending overall remain very high. For offenders sentenced to prison for periods of less than 12 months (the vast majority of whom have previously served a community sentence), 57.8% reoffend within 12 months. The skills and experience of probation professionals are immensely valuable in contributing to the rehabilitation of offenders, and we recognise that those who receive probation support have lower reoffending rates than those who do not. However, if we are to extend support to the most prolific offenders we need to free up resources, which is only possible through whole system reform.
Every part of the Criminal Justice System is under pressure to deliver better services, at less cost. Funding for the supervision of offenders makes up a sizeable proportion of the Department’s budget, and we, like every other part of the system, are faced with the challenge of trying to do better for less. We can either impose further cuts on the structures we have, risking increases in reoffending and leaving short sentence offenders without support after release, or we can reform the system so that it provides more effective rehabilitation at a better value to the taxpayer. We want to do this in a way that is sustainable for the future and we are committed to reinvesting most of the savings we make in order to support supervision for short sentence offenders. We can only do that if we bring in the best of the public, voluntary and private sectors to work with offenders in order to reduce their reoffending rates. The case for a new approach is clear and by fundamentally reforming the system we can start to make a difference.
In response to the specific questions in your email of 26 June 2013, neither the MoJ nor NOMS had any involvement in the 16th Annual Bill McWilliams Memorial Lecture. As such we would not have had any input into the title of Professor Paul Seniors presentation.
You asked whether or not the Justice Secretary will publish an official risk register for the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. A risk register enables the Ministry of Justice to actively manage any potential risk in a particular area of policy. The process of identifying, assessing and managing potential risks to the delivery of any programme is an ongoing process. As is establishing activities which will, where applicable, mitigate the likelihood of a risk turning into an issue. It is good government practice to manage delivery of any major project carefully and we are making sure we implement these reforms to the highest standard.
We consider that disclosure of this information would have a negative impact overall and this decision is consistent with current and previous Government practice. It is important that the correct environment exists where officials feel able to be candid about any risks relating to proposals, their assessment of the likelihood of them materialising, or the impact that would have on development of proposals. It is Government practice to challenge proposals robustly internally and we need to maintain a mechanism to do this. For this reason, there are no plans to publish the risk register.
I can confirm that the proposed timetable for the Offender Rehabilitation Bill was not impacted by the House of Lords Amendments. As you may be aware, the Act received Royal Assent on 13 March 2014. There is already legislation in place that will enable us to carry out all the proposed reforms, apart from creating a legislative commitment to provide for those offenders who have been sentenced to less than 12 months. Without the Offender Rehabilitation Act coming into place offenders who currently receive no supervision after release would have been deprived of the support they need to prevent them from reoffending.
The Transforming Rehabilitation Reforms are part of a programme across the whole justice system, making it ready to meet the challenges of the future. We are creating a system that produces more effective and efficient services for all – reforming offenders, delivering value for the taxpayer and protecting victims and communities.