IARS has been following closely the progress of the Crime and Courts bill and other proposed changes to the criminal justice system currently under consultation. If passed, these Ministry of Justice reforms will radically alter the way the probation service

 operates in England and Wales. Proposals include extending the policy of payment-by-results to offender management services so that providers will be paid based on their ability to prove reduced re-offending rates, and a plan to open up large sections of probation’s work to competition from the private and voluntary sectors.

Participating in the Guardian Live chat “Probation service in peril?”, an online debate about the reforms, IARS Director Dr. Theo Gavrielides said: “I have always been suspicious of what drives public policy and reform. In an ideal world reforms would be driven by evidence. In even more ideal world, the communities that we are trying to reach and who are affected by these reforms would be leading these reforms and the evidence that inform them. We are not living in an ideal world. Investigating what drives this particular policy is interesting”. Moreover, he pointed out three top tips to give to a leader in probation for coping with the future changes:

  1. Embrace the challenges presented and respond to them constructively
  2. Don't be complacent- in a competitive environment where social policy and reform is driven by economics, no one is safe.
  3. Compete but remain truthful to your Trust's values. Involve your users and listen to your frontline staff!

He also encouraged a more collaborative approach inside the third sector and suggested strengthening partnerships by building trust. What leads to good partnership? In Dr. Theo Gavrielides’ opinion, “the acknowledgement of what we are good at but also what we are not good at”.

He underlined that “small voluntary organisations lack the expertise and the infrastructure that will allow them to form basic partnerships. A simple template partnership agreement can been see as a huge aid for instance.

By definition, charities and voluntary organisations are stronger in the matter of trust, at least by people. They also base their success on relationships and the trust they earn.

And there is a different kind of trust.The trust that commissioners have in small organisations to deliver. It is also the trust that we need to develop in value based businesses/ services”.

The proposed changes to the criminal justice system provide an important context to the research IARS is currently carrying out on behalf of two probation trusts.

In particular, IARS is working with London Probation to review their practices and services to black and minority ethnic groups. IARS independent review and recommendations will be launched at a joint conference early this year. More information can be found here.

Moreover, IARS is supporting Greater Manchester Probation Trust in the drafting of a strategy to reduce serious youth violence, gangs and group offending. The use of restorative justice is being explored particularly within the context of riots. More information can be found here.


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