One indication of the unexpected scale and pace of Chris Grayling’s radical reforms came in an obscure Ministry of Justice “prior information notice” published to alert the markets. It puts the estimated value of the new rehabilitation and supervision contracts at £5bn to £20bn over the next 10 years. It adds that it expects the formal competition for the “payment by results” contracts in 21 areas across England and Wales to start this August. The detailed Ministry of Justice strategy document also published on Thursday makes clear that the original estimate that 70% of existing probation work could end up with the private or voluntary sector and only 30% with the rump of the public probation service is no longer valid. The addition of the new work supervising 50,000 extra short-sentenced prisoners on their release, which is to go to private security companies and charities, has now shifted that balance. The figures now appear to be 88% in the private/voluntary sector and only 12% left in the hands of the probation service.
Probation chiefs have accused the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, of dismantling the probation service as he confirmed that the public sector would be barred from bidding for the payment-by-results contracts to provide his radical rehabilitation plan for prisoners leaving jail.