Probation in a pandemic

Date01 March 2021
Published date01 March 2021
AuthorNicola Carr
Subject MatterEditorial
Probation in
a pandemic
Welcome to the first issue of the journal for 2021. The last year has certainly been
momentous and many will have been happy to ring in the new year. However, the
start of this year looks to be turbulent as COVID continues to impact widely on all
aspects of society. On 1st January the United Kingdom officially left the European
Union following the Brexit referendum and the end of the transition period. A ‘no-
deal’ scenario was avoided when an agreement between the EU and the UK was
reached at the last minute, but the future ahead is uncharted, and even Brexit
advocates were predicting a ‘bumpy’ period as adjustments take place to the new
At the time of writing also, the different nations of the United Kingdom have
entered into a further lockdown as cases of the virus continue to escalate placing
unprecedented pressures on health services. The situation is the same across many
countries, and while the promise of widescale vaccination is on the horizon, the
return to a semblance of normality still seems like some distance away.
Like all sections of society, probation services have had to adapt to public health
restrictions. This has entailed reduced face-to-face contact and an increased reli-
ance on remote supervision. In England and Wales, the public health crisis has
coincided with another major reform of probation services, which is due to be
delivered this year. This will entail the disbandment of Community Rehabilitation
Companies (CRCs) formed under the Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) reforms, and
the movement of all probation supervision into the National Probation Service
(NPS). Some services will still remain contracted out to private, voluntary or statutory
providers, but this proportion will be relatively small when compared with the scope
of privatisation under TR. The coincidence of the public health crisis which neces-
sitated the implementation of an ‘Exceptional Delivery Model’ by probation ser-
vices, alongside further widescale reforms, is aptly described by the House of
Commons Justice Committee, which has been considering the impact of COVID on
the probation system, as a ‘huge undertaking’ (House of Commons Justice Com-
mittee, 2020a: 4).
The ‘Exceptional Delivery Model’ was implemented in England and Wales
during the first national lockdown in March 2020. This entailed the cessation of
some activities including unpaid work, and the prioritisation of face-to-face contact
with those assessed to be highest risk. The adaptions were necessary in the context
of an unprecedented crisis but there is evidence that the adoption of the model was
variable across different providers and that staff experienced strains in managing
Probation Journal
2021, Vol. 68(1) 3–7
ªThe Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0264550521991388
The Journal of Community and Criminal Justice

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