Chapter I: National Probation Service for England and Wales
Sections 1 and 2: The New Service
51.Section 1 makes general provision for the existence of the service and defines its purposes in terms of assisting courts in sentencing decisions and providing for the supervision and rehabilitation of persons charged with or convicted of offences. Section 2 sets out the aims of the service, which are to protect the public, to reduce reoffending, to provide for the proper punishment of offenders, to ensure that offenders are aware of the effects of their crimes on their victims and on the public and to rehabilitate offenders.
Section 3: Functions of the Secretary of State
52.This Section sets out the role of the Secretary of State who will have responsibility for the National Probation Service for England and Wales and its funding.
53.At present there are 54 separate and independent probation services, each governed by a probation committee. The new service will operate as a single unified service for England and Wales.
54.The unified service will be administered on a local basis by local probation boards. This is to allow national priorities to be interpreted in the light of local circumstances and local needs. There will be 42 areas in all; 41 will match the police areas and a London service will cover both the Metropolitan Police District and the City of London Police Area. This will reduce the current number of 54 probation areas, with 20 of the existing services amalgamating to form 8 new local areas. This is designed to improve the management of the criminal justice system by creating common boundaries, based on police areas, for the different criminal justice agencies. Section 4(6) allows the Secretary of State to alter the probation areas.
55.Section 5 describes the functions of the local probation boards. These will include the employment of staff, and may also include contracting with partner organisations (other boards, private sector companies, voluntary organisations or individuals) for the provision of services. Local probation boards will be able to contract out any activity relating to their core functions such as community service provision or delivery of offender programmes, but the Board will remain responsible for ensuring the quality of the service delivered by the contractor. They will be able to provide hostel accommodation for people who are on bail, people under supervision, people released on licence from prison and people who accept the need to live in a hostel on a voluntary basis because of the nature of their offending.
56.Section 5(4) allows the staff employed by local probation boards to work with other agencies in their local area on crime reduction, crime prevention and assisting victims of crime. This will include work on local crime reduction strategies undertaken under the provisions of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 which will require the Boards of the new Service to contribute to the development and implementation of a crime reduction strategy for the local area.
57.Section 5(8) gives the Secretary of State the responsibility for determining whether a local probation board has made sufficient provision to meet its responsibilities.
58.Section 6 maintains the current arrangements under which Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Probation and other members of the inspectorate of probation hold office, but changes their title. Section 7 describes the functions of the inspectorate, which may be required to inspect the work of each local probation board. The Secretary of State may give directions to the Inspectorate setting out the criteria on which the inspections are to be based and requiring the Inspectorate to report to the Secretary of State on each inspection, within a given timescale and on a consistent basis with an agreed format. The Chief Inspector will continue to advise the Home Secretary on particular problems that arise, and on personnel matters. The Secretary of State will be able to give additional functions to the Chief Inspector which will enable him to inspect partner organisations, for example, Langley House, National Association for Care and Resettlement of Offenders. It will also enable the Home Secretary to call for reports where he has concerns about the performance of a service or the people he has appointed to manage the service.
Section 8: Support Services - Powers to contract out
59.This Section gives the Home Secretary the power to make an order to contract out work undertaken by local probation boards. This power may be exercised in relation to one or more parts of boards’ responsibilities. In contrast to the contracting out power in Section 5, this Section is designed to enable the contracting out of support services which are common to all boards such as the provision of information technology and the administration of the payroll.
60.This power is available for use where greater efficiency or better value for money can be achieved; for instance if a particular activity could be managed more cost-effectively by organising it on a national or regional basis. Arrangements for contracting out all the functions of a board are dealt with under Section 10.
Section 9: Approved premises
61.This Section gives the Secretary of State the power to approve premises in which accommodation is provided for persons on bail and for, and in connection with, the supervision and rehabilitation of persons who have been convicted of an offence, to make regulations for the regulation, management and inspection of those premises, and to make payments for the maintenance or improvement of such premises.
Section 10: Default powers
62.Section 10 gives the Secretary of State the power to make a management order which can modify the composition of a local probation board by―
removing any or all of the chair, the chief officer and other board members;
replacing them in accordance with an alternative arrangement, i.e. a contract made with a private, voluntary or public sector organisation.
63.Although the composition of the board would change in such circumstances, the board as a legal entity would remain the same with all its duties and responsibilities under the Act.
64.It is intended that this power would only be used as a last resort where the Secretary of State concluded that a board is failing to perform its functions to a satisfactory standard, or where the board had made arrangements which did not offer good value for money, and the normal processes of performance management had been unable to achieve the required improvement.