The report of the Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales is now published. Napo Cymru gave evidence to the commission, and we welcome its findings which endorse our campaign.
You can read the full report here The Independent Commission on the Constitutional Future of Wales | GOV.WALES
Napo Cymru Vice-Chair Su McConnel says: “The Independent Commission joins the rapidly growing calls for the devolution of Probation in Wales. We are nearing if not at the point where all but the architects of the current sorry state of Probation in England and Wales are calling for this.”
Su then went on to pull key highlights from the report.
Like policing, the probation service works closely with devolved services and could be transferred to the Welsh Government with minimal disruption. Following agreement in principle between the two governments, work could begin on designing a governance and accountability structure for a Welsh probation service, building on work underway by the Welsh Centre for Crime and Social Justice.
In his foreword to the 2022-23 Annual Report of HM Inspectorate of Probation, the Chief Inspector makes a number of observations of relevance to devolution. He notes the challenges facing the service after the upheaval of four major structural reorganisation in 20 years, and expresses concern about the impact of the new, merged ‘One HMPPS’ structure for prisons and probation.
The Chief Inspector noted that: “Past experience with the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) is that the day-to-day operational and political demands of the prison service can all too easily distract from the Probation Service and its particular (and very different) needs.”
He went on to add: “While I recognise that another reorganisation of the service, and any shift in this direction would have to be with the explicit agreement of local managers and staff, I think the time has come for an independent review of whether probation should move back to a more local form of governance and control, building on the highly successful lessons of youth justice services – 70 per cent of which we rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ last year.”
Devolution would be relatively straightforward in practice for the following reasons:
- A Welsh probation structure and budget already exists within the HMPPS and could readily be transferred to the Welsh Government.
- The preventative ethos of the probation service is closely aligned with the policies of the Welsh Government and the wider Welsh public service.
- There would be an opportunity to create a structure for a Welsh probation service, in collaboration with staff, to achieve the strong partnerships and operational flexibility advocated by the Chief Inspector, as discussed above.