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Ministry of Justice audit raises concern over South Yorkshire service

Performance of Sodexo-run Community Rehabilitation Company now being monitored closely, MoJ confirms

The Ministry of Justice’s own audit of part of England’s probation service run by French conglomerate Sodexo has raised concerns that it is underperforming.

Less than a year has elapsed since the department controversially privatised the probation service, handing control of 21 new Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) across England and Wales over to private providers.

Now the MoJ has confirmed that the Sodexo-run South Yorkshire CRC is being monitored after reportedly failing an audit.

A spokesman for the government department said: “We hold providers rigorously to account for their performance and take action wherever they are falling short.

“Following an audit by the Ministry of Justice, South Yorkshire CRC has now developed an improvement plan. We will continue to monitor the CRC's performance closely.

“Our probation reforms are designed to make sure almost all offenders receive support on release, including, for the first time, those sentenced to less than 12 months.”

No one in Sodexo’s press office was available for comment when PoliceOracle.com rang.

However, a spokesman told The Independent that the company was “disappointed” with the result of the audit and had implemented an action plan to address concerns.

Sodexo also runs probation services in Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Cumbria and Lancashire. It has been criticised in the past by union Napo for announcing job cuts.

Earlier this year Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation for England and Wales flagged up problems arising from the government’s privatisation of probation.

These included rising caseloads for staff in some areas and a lack of clarity over “who owned or was responsible for which information” amid changeovers and restructuring of the system.

At the time a spokesman for the MoJ said: "Major transitions in public services are always challenging, but we are confident that our reforms are being successfully delivered.” 

The privatisation of probation services happened under the previous Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling, who has since been replaced by Michael Gove.