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Written evidence from Roger Hirst, Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex
We are concerned that the changes to the future of probation, occurring in response to Covid-19, will further lessen the local influence.
In Essex we have good relationships with both the CRC and NPS, however, it is noticeable that the local nature of the CRC means that it is easier for there to be influence and joint-working. NPS is managed in two separate structures across north and south Essex, and data is made available at a regional level. This makes it harder to identify local needs and response.
The latest changes include increased regionalisation in regard to contracting services.
Successful working with the CRC in Essex has been assisted enormously by the coterminous of the boundary of the CRC with the Police and PFCC. This has enabled truly local decisions to be made and implemented, to best respond to local need. We would like to see greater delegation of authority for decision-making and funding, to enable local expertise to inform what happens at a county level.
PCCs are ideally placed to lead the commissioning function, which would enable NPS funding to work effectively alongside that which PCCs already have responsibility for. This would enable services to be commissioned efficiently to support service users in the most effective ways.
Should there not be a desire to involve PCCs directly in commissioning probation services (previously proposed to be under the Dynamic Framework) we would welcome a mechanism that offers greater scope for contacts to be awarded at a sub reginal level.
Despite a clear desire for NPS to co-commission in partnership with PCCs, this will become much more challenging if a greater number of contracts are to be awarded at a regional level. We are keen to work in partnership, but need to ensure accountability for our funding and therefore influence over the decisions made.
Regional contracts will be much harder for local third sector organisations to bid for. These small, local charities are often best-placed to understand and respond to local needs, in a cost-effective and efficient way. Collaborative and consortia bids are a laudable concept, but frequently too challenging for these small organisations to achieve, particularly given timeframes imposed and the additional costs of preparing bids. There is concern that delivery by less local services will be less efficient and effective, but also that the reduced ability to be involved in delivery could place the continued survival of some of these local organisations at risk.
We fear that the combined outcome of these concerns will be a less local approach to delivery, which would ultimately impact on the end-user.
I would welcome a review of the involvement of PCCs, with a view to working more collaboratively with probation services
3 September 2020
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