Under Chris Grayling, the UK privatised its probation service, a move that the Chief Inspector of Probation has condemned as ‘Irredeemably flawed’. Clearing up this mess will cost £467m, and re-offending has significantly increased.
Meanwhile Northern Ireland retains its integrated public sector provision. As the Economist (Irish Porridge, April 6, p 24) says, retaining probation as a dedicated public service profession may not be the only reason but incarceration rates in Northern Ireland are closer to those of Norway and Sweden than England and Wales.
Privatisation has its place and the emerging BS 95009 (The Trust Test) should help government departments and agencies select companies with appropriate culture and stewardship, but there are some activities that should never be subjected to competitive bids and market testing. Probation is one. After the UK government decided to take back Birmingham Prison from G4S, prisons may well be another. Full credit to Prisons Minister Rory Stewart, who seems to understand the nature of the crisis and the need to improve prison leadership and treat prisoners like human beings.
We are paying heavily for pro- and anti- market dogma from right and left. The true need is that organisations should be well stewarded, focusing on their purpose and achieving the high quality relationships on which their longer term success depends.
That is what BS 95009 is designed to achieve.