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GRAYLING collarless

Chris Grayling is Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, and MP for Epsom and Ewell.

I sometimes struggle to understand the confusion and hypocrisy on the left, and in the Labour Party in particular. In opposition, they hate the private sector. In Government, they use it extensively. Profit is apparently bad, and those who make it are leeches on our society. Yet without successful business, they know full well that our pension funds could not deliver money for our retirement, or corporate tax revenues to pay for public services.

Their hypocrisy is blatant when it comes to using payment by results. In government, they said they would start using the concept to get value for taxpayers. Now they describe it as an untried and untested methodology and are opposed to its use.

And yet you would think payment by results is just common sense. It’s a simple concept, really. We ask the private and not-for-profit sectors to provide some services to Government. We pay them for those services. But we hold back some or all of the money until they are successful. So we don’t end up paying for something that doesn’t work. Who could object to that? Oh, Labour – that’s right.

By contrast, this Government has set payment by results at the heart of its programme of public sector reform. And today marks a big day for payment by results. We have the latest figures on the progress made by the Work Programme in cutting long term unemployment – in helping those who have been stranded for a long time on the fringes of the labour market. The Work Programme has been making real progress, and at a price which represents much better value for the taxpayer than previous programmes.

Perhaps even more significantly though, today marks the start of the Government’s second major foray into delivering positive social change using payment by results – Transforming Rehabilitation.

Crime in Britain is falling. There are fewer first time offenders coming into our criminal justice system. That’s all very good news.

But underlying the overall crime figures is a stark reality. Most crime today is being committed by people going round and round the system. Most people who end up in our courts have been there before. Most people who are given prison sentences have already been given community sentences (Note to Labour and the Liberal Democrats: community sentences aren’t an easy alternative to prison – most prisoners have done them already and have reoffended).

These are people from the most difficult of backgrounds. Broken homes. Failed at school. More often than not with drug and alcohol, or mental health problems. Nearly a quarter were in care as children, something I find truly shocking.

And if you go to prison in this country for less than twelve months, you leave with £46 in your pocket, little guidance, and no statutory support or supervision. And when you talk to offenders in that position, they are usually really worried about what will happen to them.

45,000 ex-offenders a year leaving our prisons often just to walk the streets. And it’s easier to go back to the same people and places as before, and reoffend. Nearly two thirds do.

And yet we know that when that support is provided it can make a real difference. Trial partnerships between private and voluntary sectors in Peterborough and Doncaster to provide better help for offenders leaving prison have shown real progress in bringing down reoffending.

So today we are completing the contracts that will change all of that. When the work starts in the New Year, no new offender will be left stranded with no help when they leave prison. Virtually every offender leaving prison will receive 12 months of guidance and support, as well as the statutory supervision required by the Courts. There will be an increased focus on mentoring and guidance, and the creation of a proper through the prison gate service, with most prisoners spending the last few months of their sentence in the areas they will be released into so that there are better preparations for that release.

Most of the work will be done by new partnerships between private sector companies with expertise in social change and voluntary sector organisations with skills in working with offenders. Like Ingeus, Interserve and Working Links who are all an integral part of working with the long term unemployed in the Work Programme, Sodexo who have helped shape the trial project in Peterborough, St Giles Trust and Nacro, who have leading edge skills in offender mentoring, and specialist charities like Shelter. Backed by hundreds of smaller local charities that will be able to do more great work with offenders.

They will work alongside a smaller, specialist National Probations Service, which will be tasked with managing risk to the public and particularly to working with the most dangerous offenders on a multi-agency basis.

And crucially, the new rehabilitation providers won’t be paid in full unless they deliver real reductions in reoffending. It’s a classic case of what this Government is about, delivering more for less for the taxpayer.

And Labour? In 2007, the Labour Government passed an Act of Parliament which opened out the rehabilitation of offenders to a new generation of providers. They understood then the difference we could make.

But they did nothing to complete the job. That has been left to us, to deliver a reform that I believe can make a real difference to our society. And the current Labour Party has opposed us every inch of the way. It’s a sign of the groundhog day ideology that lies at the heart of today’s Labour Party. A hatred for private sector and profit and wealth creation. A belief that the private and voluntary sectors in partnership cannot deliver positive social change, even though they are already doing so. A belief that the state should do everything, even when it hasn’t worked in the way it should. A view that the unions are always right. And a bizarre opposition to payment by results, even though most of us would think it common sense.

I reject their approach totally. I want real social change in a way that delivers real value for taxpayers as well. The Work Programme is already doing that. I believe our Transforming Rehabilitation reforms will do the same.

44 comments for: Chris Grayling MP: My plan to transform the rehabilitation of prisoners, and make it work better

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