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Probation officers slam privatisation plans
By Scott Docherty - WWO
The proposed reforms to the Probation Service have already been met with fierce resistance from MPs and commentators - and the results from a survey of probation officers show that nearly all of them do not support the government's plans for privatisation.
The study, conducted jointly by staff unions Unison and Napo, also found that 93 per cent do not believe the reforms will give the taxpayer value for money, and 98 per cent state that they have "no confidence in Justice Secretary Chris Grayling".
Currently, there are plans to privatise some 70 per cent of the Probation Service. This opens up the field to private outsourcing companies, which will handle those considered lower risk offenders while the National Probation Service will continue to manage those deemed to carry higher risk.
In addition to part privatisation, there are intentions for the work of the Probation Service to be extended to those released from short-term sentences and the creation of 70 "local resettlement prisons".
Mark Leftly, a commentator speaking in the Independent newspaper, claimed companies bidding for contracts totalling five billion pounds over 10 years will inherit "utter messes".
He said: "Staff morale is at an all-time low, case files are missing due to chaotic IT system or gathering dust in cupboards because of workforce shortages, offenders aren't being properly supervised, and there is a growing risk to public safety.
"The crisis is too great to subdue quickly or, indeed, profitably in most of the CRCs [community rehabilitation companies]. These outsourcing groups will be criticised and almost certainly financially penalised if a shambles not of their own making worsens".
"Even if these groups somehow manage through sheer organisational nous to tackle a unique and untested situation and turn around, they won't be thanked."
The MP Margaret Hodge has also expressed concerns over the reform given the work associated with the reform combined with the reputation of previous criminal justice outsourcing attempts.
She said: "We recognise that the reform programme is still developing, but the scale, complexity and pace of the changes are very challenging, and the MoJ’s extremely poor track record of contracting out – such as the recent high-profile failures on its electronic tagging contracts – gives rise to particular concern."
The Ministry of Justice have justified the proposed reforms on the grounds that they were informed by pilot studies in Peterborough and Doncaster, and that a new approach is needed to reduce rates of recidivism.
They told The Guardian: "Around 600,000 crimes are committed each year by people who have already broken the law, and almost half those released have returned to crime within 12 months.
"The public deserves better which is why we are introducing these important reforms. Our changes will mean for the first time every offender leaving prison spends at least 12 months under supervision."
Picture: Policy Exchange / Flickr
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