UK/Suffolk: Fears probation service privatisation could put communities at risk

Privatising the probation service will leave Suffolk residents at the mercy of offenders due to a ch

Privatising the probation service will leave Suffolk residents at the mercy of offenders due to a chaotic, mismanaged system, a union has warned. Photo By Shout / Rex Features - Credit: Shout / Rex Features

PRIVATISING the probation service will leave Suffolk residents at the mercy of offenders due to a chaotic, mismanaged system, a union has warned.

Probation staff expect the Government to announce plans to outsource much of the work it currently does today.

The move has been met with alarm by the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO), which has warned communities could be left in jeopardy from criminals who could present a serious risk to society.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk members of NAPO said: “Our view is if the Government pursues its plans it will cause chaos, leave communities unprotected, and it will also lead to risks being mismanaged.”

The union believes introducing different providers, all of whom have a duty in passing on information to what is left of the current service about offenders posing a risk of re-offending or serious harm, is a flawed concept.

The spokeswoman said: “If they are financially incentivised to keep those people on their books there is the issue of whether they would assess the risk of serious harm appropriately and pass it on to a public body.

“Public servants protect the public from harm. If you introduce lots of different agencies to work with that kind of risk, the risk of harm in particular can surface anywhere.

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“It (our concern) is about information getting lost and things not getting passed on efficiently.

“We are here to protect the public and are proud of the job we do. The bottom line is the public are our priority and their needs come first.”

John Cummins, secretary of the East Anglian branch of NAPO, said he was concerned privatisation of the probation service could prove as disastrous as the decision to outsource the contract for court interpreters.

After the new service began last year there were stories across the country of interpreters not turning up for court cases, not being able to translate properly and defendants spending more time in custody on remand as they were unable to apply for bail.

Mr Cummins also said there was no evidence that privatising some of the prison service produced cheaper or more effective prisons.

Regarding the changes to the probation service he said: “This seems an extension of the Government’s stated policy at the outset that everything that can be outsourced should be, regardless of whether it is of benefit to the public or produces benefits in terms of costs.”

Last night a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice said: “We will be making an announcement shortly, but can not really comment in detail at the moment.”

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