Alas I cannot help but feel today’s article is hitting the right spot. The UK government is in danger of being short-sighted in cancelling the historic Peterborough project especially given that pure private tendering has not proven ultra-efficient in other areas of government outsourcing (Olympic security springs to mind).

This is worrying as the Peterborough project did seem to have a much more acute ability to help all parties. The new project, a national outsourcing project will be in danger of suffering the usual malaise of management which comes from big government which in and of itself is unsustainable.

A Prisoner Rehabilitation Programme In Peterborough Was Working. Now It’s Been Cut.
Memphis Barker – The Independent

Something historic began in Peterborough four years ago. Private investors paid a group of charities £5m to set up and run a prisoner rehabilitation programme, aimed at halting the merry-go-round that sees two in every three short-term offenders return to jail. If the charities made good – encouraging car-thieves and drug-users to drop their vice – then the Government would pay a return to the investors, drawn from savings made to the state in costly court-time and prison accommodation. The arrangement was called a ‘Social Impact Bond’.

It was, apparently, working. While reoffending among short-term prisoners rose 10 per cent last year nationally, in Peterborough, where charities like the St Giles Trust were meeting ex-convicts at the gates, it fell by 11 per cent. So it is dismaying to learn that the Ministry of Justice has chosen to cut short the pilot programme – which had the distinction of being the world’s first.

Instead, a new scheme is being rolled out by Justice Secretary Chris Grayling. It will extend probation to all short-term offenders – a group left to do as they please before the Peterborough project – and will pay private companies to handle the service, so long as they deliver results. This national project treads on the toes of Peterborough’s local Social Impact Bond (SIB) – hence the bond’s cancellation. There are key differences between the two. Organisations invested in by the SIB had the money upfront to offer a holistic service to ex-cons, purchasing, for example, more mental health support from the charity Mind when they realised it was needed. The national programme, on the other hand, requires those who bid for a contract to take the risk and stump up their own cash – which may lead to cutting corners, or an incentive to work with only the sweetest-singing of ex-jailbirds.