Since the debates leading up to the establishment of the devolved Welsh Government, the now First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, has argued for Probation in Wales to be a devolved service.
The Thomas Report (Commission on Justice in Wales) published 2019 recommended the devolution of Justice in Wales. The Gordon Brown Report (A New Britain) published 2022, commissioned by Keir Starmer, recommended specifically the devolution of Probation and Youth Justice in Wales.
In June 2023 First Minister Mark Drakeford, addressing a Napo Cymru event, said that “this is real: concrete planning for the devolution of Probation is underway” and acknowledged the work of Napo in this regard, adding that this would require legislation by UK government.
The outgoing Chief Inspector of Probation, Justin Russell, in September 2023 called for an independent review of whether Probation should return to local control. Napo passed a motion at our AGM in October 2023 which states “Out of Westminster, out of the Civil Service, separate from Prisons: Probation in Wales can show a better way: Napo will actively, urgently, and persistently campaign for the devolution of Probation in Wales, focussing these efforts on the Westminster Labour Party, demanding that the devolution of Wales Probation is included in the UK Labour manifesto for the next General Election.
Napo Cymru contributed to the Welsh Labour Devolution Conference in Cardiff on Saturday 11th November. Speaking at the event Jane Hutt MS Minister for Social Justice and First Minister Mark Drakeford acknowledged the work of Napo and emphasised the need for the devolution of Probation and Youth Justice to be in the programme of legislation in the first term of a new Labour UK government, and the work that is being done to make “oven-ready” preparations for this.
Su McConnel: vice-chair of Napo Cymru said that for Napo, this wasn’t solely a Welsh issue. “in Wales the work to plan a locally based Probation Service, driven by values of social justice, and supported by frontline staff, is well under way. A Welsh Probation Service could gift a healthy and functional model to England.”
Napo Chair Helen Banner outlined the reality of the current crisis of the Probation Service being subsumed by the prison system and strangled by civil service centralised control at the cost of the localism so crucial to our work.
Tweeting later, Dame Vera Baird KC, Independent Advisor on Justice to Welsh Government, wrote: “Napo’s involvement in devolution of Probation is imperative and so valuable”.
Napo Cymru Chair Lee Hoyles writes: “The success of this, and the ‘saving of probation’ relies on legislation to devolve being passed early in the term of a new UK Labour Government. We detect a certain reticence in the national Labour party to drive this forward. This is wider than Wales. This is a heaven-sent opportunity for a new Labour Government to start to right the wrongs of Graylings catastrophic TR debacle. Napo in England and Wales will be campaigning to get this through”.