Public Protection? The Implications of Grayling’s ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ Agenda on the Safety of Women and Children: A Review, 5 Years On

Published 12/03/2019
Author(s) Beverley Gilbert

Read the journal article corresponding to this blog: Public Protection? The Implications of Grayling’s ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ Agenda on the Safety of Women and Children

By Beverley Gilbert, Senior Lecturer in Domestic Violence, University of Worcester

In 2013 I wrote an article published in a special edition of British Journal of Community Justice (BJCJ) suggesting that the proposed Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) agenda would jeopardise the work undertaken with perpetrators of domestic abuse (Gilbert, 2013). I suggested that under new changes proposed by the then Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, domestic abuse cases would be assigned to the private sector Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs), and that perpetrators would, as a result receive inadequate levels of intervention by a variety of CRC organisations and by less qualified and/or experienced probation practitioners.  This change in practice would then translate into women and children bearing the brunt of the impact in terms of an increased risk of experiencing harm.

Moving forward to the post-TR era, in 2018 HM Inspectorate of Probation (HMIP) recorded that poor practice was widespread within CRCs supervising perpetrators of domestic abuse (HMIP, 2018). Inspectors reported that CRC staff, did not have the skills, experience or time to supervise these individuals properly.  HMIP evaluated practice in the new CRC organisations and Inspectors recorded that in 55% of cases, perpetrators of domestic abuse were not making enough progress on their community orders. They found that perpetrators were not receiving the necessary levels of support and challenge they required to change their behaviour. This is absolutely essential to enable perpetrators to reduce the risk of harm posed to the victims of their offending behaviour, and potentially to future victims.

The HMIP report cited that in 71% of cases assessed, they found that work to protect victims and children was simply not good enough. HMIP Inspectors found it difficult to see the victim’s voice in plans made to manage risk of harm, and in terms of protecting children, although 75% of cases inspected required child protection considerations, only 37% had sufficient consideration (HMIP 2018:30).

“Overall, work to protect victims and children was poor…… work to safeguard victims, and especially children, was of grave concern.” (HMIP, 2018:32)

As predicted, the number of fully qualified and experienced probation officers were lost from the CRC organisations as the privatised, for-profit model was introduced.  This loss of experience and expertise has a concerning implication to public protection work connected to domestic violence. Frances Crook, CEO of The Howard League for Penal Reform, commented in this respect on domestic abuse cases and profit making CRC companies, where the specialist focus of such work had, ‘fallen by the wayside in the rush to cut costs and turn a profit’ (Dearden, 2018).

Without any satisfaction, I note that the argument I made six years ago is reinforced by the inspectorate’s troubling report regarding CRC supervision of domestic abuse perpetrators and the risk to women and children. There were seemingly unanimous and vociferous predictions made by all connected with work within probation or criminal justice advising disaster prior to the introduction of the TR model.  There was always a likelihood of an increased risk of harm posed to women and children as a result of the Ministry of Justice’s TR agenda.  Given what was widely predicted, and what we now irrefutably know, it is now indefensible that this situation remains. The TR system of managing perpetrators of abuse is not fit for purpose, and as a consequence, creates unacceptable risks to some of the most vulnerable in our communities.