Union fears over transfer of Suffolk probation service to private firm Sodexo

Probation service to be taken over by Sodexo

Probation service to be taken over by Sodexo - Credit: PA

Probation officers have branded the awarding of a contract for the community supervision of criminals in Suffolk to a private firm as “ill thought out”.

The National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) union believes public safety will be jeopardised by the privatisation.

Sodexo Justice Services, part of the 11.7 billion euro (£9.2bn) Sodexo group, has been named preferred bidder with charity Nacro for running probation services in six areas in England and Wales, including Norfolk and Suffolk.

Together the organisations will run the Norfolk and Suffolk Community Rehabilitation Company, and the role will include working with around 1,000 prisoners released from short sentences each year who currently have no supervision. The bodies will only be paid in full if they are successful at reducing reoffending.

Contracts have been split across so-called community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) in 20 English regions and one Welsh region, while the National Probation Service, a new public sector organisation, has been formed to deal with high-risk offenders.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said the changes would “redouble” efforts to bring down reoffending and stop people from becoming victims of crime.

But probation workers hit out at Mr Grayling for “pressing ahead with untried and untested” reforms.

Most Read

They have already been on strike twice in the past 12 months in opposition to the moves.

John Cummins, secretary for Napo in East Anglia, said: “It is ill thought out.

“It will mean these contracts will be awarded on commercial lines rather than protection of the public, and that we believe creates a conflict of interest.”

The union said although in the short term the people providing the services will be taken from those working for Norfolk and Suffolk Probation Trust, there is no guarantee that will continue in the longer term.

Mr Cummins said: “That’s going to have an effect on the ability of the service to provide protection for the public.

“The model the Ministry of Justice is using is that somebody who is a medium risk offender will continue to be a medium risk offender, but that’s not always the case.

“It’s not proven that this will save money. There has been no demonstration of that. The changes have been rushed through with poor checking or evaluation beforehand.

“We are worried about de-professionalism of the service, not being able to deliver the service to the public that they should be able to expect, and no benefit coming from these changes. I don’t think it has really been thought through.”

Ian Lawrence, general secretary of Napo added: “It is purely ideological that Grayling is pressing ahead with his untried and untested so-called reforms to probation.”

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter