With cuts happening left, right and centre, is it any surprise that Napo has called for the scrapping of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS)? The idea to link prison and probation services was introduced by the Labour government but now the probation officers’ union, Napo has said it has failed to support offenders during and after release. It estimates a saving of between £200m and £300m if it were scrapped.
So would removing this layer allow the probation service to better serve offenders?
Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform said “Prison is not community and the community is not prison. Prisons are closed institutions, which are managed in a top down, rigid manner. By contrast, working in the community requires a local and flexible approach, which the probation service has long specialised in.”
What does this mean for the probation service? The proposed cuts would see the separation of the prison and probation services. This could indeed highlight the importance of probation services in terms of providing specialised guidance at the appropriate time for offenders. It is with careful handling that offenders should be eased back into the outside world by those specialised in managing offenders in the community.
Probation services could consider using a guidance program such as Adult Directions which helps make offenders aware of relevant issues to them, with useful articles such as: ‘Ex-offenders (How to Apply for jobs)’, ‘Alternatives to Unemployment’ and ‘The Job Market’. To support their entry back into the community, they could also look at their skills set and consider these in relation to careers. Read about how Adult Directions is used in HMP Maghaberry in helping their offenders’ resettlement. Effective guidance has to be essential for the future of helping young offenders and depending on the outcome of proposed cuts, we could see the probation services taking a leading role on this.