Beyond Marketisation: Towards a Relational Future of Professionalism in Probation After Transforming Rehabilitation

Published 23/09/2021
Type Article
Author(s) Matt Tidmarsh & Ian Marder
Corresponding Authors

The Coalition Government pledged to maintain ‘professionalism’ in probation through its market-based Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) reforms; however, the recent decision to reverse these reforms came as the service’s professionalism has been downgraded and diminished. TR eroded the networks of relationships, between and among people and organisations, which constitute probation’s essence (Senior et al.,  2016) – that is, its ability to overlay the distinct, but interlinked spheres of corrections, social welfare, treatment and the community. This paper looks to the future of professionalism in English and Welsh probation after TR. We argue that the service lies at a crossroads, between a continuation of the punitive and marketising policies imposed in recent decades, and opportunities to recapture its essence through a relational re-professionalisation agenda. We advocate for a strategic and evidence-based professionalism in probation practice that emphasises relational co-production. Here, a restorative practice model can support relationship building in client facing and multi-agency contexts, begin to rebuild relationships within the service and offset the worst excesses of other agendas.