Probation trusts to trial payment-by-result

Police officer holding handcuffs The government hopes the trial will reduce the number of people who go on to commit other crimes

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Two probation trusts will pilot a payment-by-results scheme, in a bid to cut the level of reoffending, the government has announced.

The Wales and Staffordshire and West Midlands (SWM) probation trusts will work with private and voluntary groups.

The Ministry of Justice said external organisations would be rewarded only if they met targets to cut reoffending.

Critics said the four-year trial, which is due to start next year, would cherry-pick the easiest groups.

Justice minister Crispin Blunt said: "These ground-breaking pilots will for the first time test how real freedom to innovate, alongside strong public, private and voluntary sector partnerships, could drive significant reductions in reoffending by those serving community sentences."

The Wales and SWM trusts will participate in the scheme with up to 2,000 offenders.

A similar trial is already in place in a number of prisons including Leeds and Doncaster.

The government plans to roll out the model at both prisons, and probation trusts across the country from 2015.

Start Quote

People will be viewed in terms of their profitability”

End Quote Sophie Willett Howard League for Penal Reform
Complex needs

Last year a justice committee report by MPs said the probation service's current approach was "overly administrative".

A 2008 survey of probation officers showed they spent just 24% of their time with offenders.

However, the Howard League for Penal Reform has criticised the payment-by-results model.

Sophie Willett, of the group, said people going through the justice system often had very different and sometimes complex needs.

She said: "Particularly complicated people will fall through the net as resources are channelled towards those who express a desire to change.

"People who create the most havoc in people's communities and who require the most support do not fit into the 'tick box' nature of the payment-by-results model and will be ignored. People will be viewed in terms of their profitability."

'Target efforts'

Ms Willett also claimed that payment-by-results would "play firmly into the hands of huge private security businesses" rather than small, local voluntary organisations.

Probation trusts are currently measured, among other criteria, on the actual rate of re-offending in their areas, compared with predicted figures.

While Staffordshire and West Midlands probation trust has over the last four quarters performed better than expected, the Wales trust has performed poorer than predicted.

The SWM trust said the scheme would "encourage providers to target their efforts where they can achieve the greatest success".

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