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MPs debate Family Courts and Probation

Overcrowding in prisons, an overstretched probation service and the family court crisis were all debated in parliament last week.

Overcrowding in prisons, an overstretched probation service and the family court crisis were all debated in parliament last week.

Justice Committee Chair, Bob Neill MP, highlighted the fact that “we imprison more people than most of our neighbours in Europe but still have higher rates of offending” – calling for “more intelligent use of prison and of alternatives to custody.”

Children removed from parents wait “an average of 46 weeks to get a final decision on where they will live” Tonia Antoniazzi MP revealed, but Minister Freer insisted: “We have invested in capacity” in family courts, “with more money for Cafcass, judges and recorders”.

Shadow minister Alex Cunningham MP tells Government they’re “still a long way from solving the crisis in the family courts” but Minister Freer claimed: “Every single lever that will increase capacity and productivity is being pulled.”

On the prison early release scheme, Chris Evans MP told the Government to “release data about which prisoners have been released”. Alex Chalk admitted prisons have “acute capacity challenges” but insisted the scheme has “important safeguards in place to protect victims and society.”

Shadow minister Kevin Brennan MP attacked the Government for “refusing to come clean with the public on how many prisoners are being released early under the scheme”, but Minister Argar insisted “an annualised publication of these statistics is the most appropriate approach.”

Shadow Justice Secretary Shabana Mahmood accused Alex Chalk  of “letting violent offenders out up to two months early because … he has literally nowhere to put them” – but the Lord Chancellor claimed “capacity in our jails is significantly higher than it was under Labour’s watch.”

“Probation officers have told me that they genuinely fear not being able to keep the public safe” Shabana Mahmood said, but Alex Chalk  said his release scheme is better that Labour’s: “We prioritise public safety, the Opposition prioritise politics.”

“Our probation service is in crisis, with staff overworked, overstretched and undervalued” Chi Onwurah MP pointed out, asking how Government is planning to help staff cope with extra workload from early release scheme. Alex Chalk said there was “extra funding of more than £155m a year.”

Watch in full: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/83060838-db8a-4f17-861e-a10609d7985a?in=11:35:50 (from 11:35:50)

2 Responses

  1. Not much good chucking money at a demoralized service, over stretched with often-inexperienced and burnt out staff, jumping through target driven bureaucratic standards which are sadly unreachable or unenforceable after the chaos resulting from an ill- considered effort at privatisation.

    1. Well said! The unrealistic targets need to go and all the “statutory checks” with the LAs and police streamlined. It is beyond ridiculous the amount of boxes that need ticking off. It doesn’t help that we are the “fall guys” for every other organization’s bad decisions. Someone needs to stand up for us and say “enough! This isn’t working let US show you what does work” but alas no, completely weak Probation leads pandering to political goal scoring. I don’t feel NAPO do enough personally to advocate.

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