MPs call for a rethink on merged offender service amid cost concerns

Calls are growing for a major rethink of the National Offender
Management Service following the resignation of chief executive
Martin Narey and new research that raises critical concerns,
writes Maria Ahmed.

MPs and unions predict that the departure of Narey, who takes over
as chief executive of children’s charity Barnardo’s in October,
will leave a “huge hole” in the future of Noms. There is also
speculation that Narey’s post could be downgraded.

Neil Gerrard MP, chair of the all-party justice unions group, said:
“The best thing the Home Office could do now is to bring everything
to a halt and take stock.”

The news follows the publication of the first research study of a
Noms pathfinder, which warns that “potentially significant” costs
could jeopardise the implementation of the model.

Noms, which was introduced in June last year, aims to reduce
re-offending by merging the work of the prison and probation
services to provide offenders with “end-to-end” supervision.

The pathfinder study looked at how the model was working at
Lancaster Farms and Thorn Cross young offender institutions in
north west England.

It raised concerns over gaps in provision to help address offending
behaviour and warned that high staff sickness and vacancy rates
would cause the service to “struggle to achieve the degree of
continuity required by the model”.

It also found that “significant pressure” on the YOIs to free up
spaces for remand beds was hindering continuity of supervision for
young offenders.

Although Narey, in his preface to the study, said it was “too soon”
to assess the effectiveness of the model, the findings echo
critics’ concerns.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of probation union
Napo, said: “The study shows how the government has underestimated
how resource-intensive the service would be.”

Cheryl Gillan, shadow minister for home, constitutional and legal
affairs, said communication with staff had been “absolutely

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