THE public is at increased risk from violent criminals thanks to the botched sell-off of the probation service, unions warn today.
Three unions representing criminal rehabilitation workers have written to Lord Chancellor David Lidington urging him to renationalise the service — which was part-privatised from 2014.
The unions said “risky and controversial” reforms have failed — and called for the the government to publish the full findings of a long-awaited review into private probation contractors.
Probation union Napo said the government must take “urgent action” to address the failures of the service.
“Ministers were warned that privatisation would damage an award-winning service, and standards would deteriorate,” the union’s general secretary Ian Lawrence said.
“This is now becoming reality and having a negative impact on public safety, staff wellbeing and the ability of people who have committed offences to turn their lives around.”
Figures published this month show a rise in offenders charged with serious crimes — which include murder and child sex offences — while on probation.
Under the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme, all but the most serious probation cases were handed over to “community rehabilitation companies” run by outsourcing giants such as Sodexo and Interserve.
Napo, along with Unison and the GMB, says safety will be compromised even more by the government’s plan to outsource contracts for night-time supervision in probation hostels.
Some of Britain’s most dangerous criminals stay in these halfway houses before they are allowed to live in the community. But the three unions said private companies will employ poorly trained and low-paid staff.
Unison national officer Ben Priestley said: “The Justice Secretary has admitted that privatisation isn’t working yet wants to continue this experiment through night-time supervision. What’s needed instead are properly trained public-sector employees. That’s why the government must take back control of failing private probation services.”
Last month the Star revealed that probation officers working for contractor Interserve felt forced to neglect important tasks because of “unrealistic” time pressures and “unachievable” deadlines.
GMB organiser George Georgiou said: “Probation services have suffered more than most under this government. These latest proposals will only undermine provision and morale and put the public at further risk.
“It’s time to put common sense first and invest properly. Privatisation has completely failed and the last thing we need is more of it.”
The Ministry of Justice had not commented at the time of going to press.