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Warning public at risk if private firms run probation service warning
VICTIMS and offenders could be put at risk if plans to privatise the probation service go ahead, according to campaigners.
Protesters took to the streets of Swindon yesterday to voice their concerns against the proposals which were announced by the Ministry of Defence on Thursday.
Bidding has now started for private companies and organisations to take over probation services in England and Wales as part of an annual £450 million package of rehabilitation contracts.
Armed with placards and leaflets, campaigners stood on a corner of Victoria Road to warn people about the potential risks to public safety that could follow if payment-by-results contracts were brought in.
Albertine Davies, who has worked in Swindon as a probation officer for 11 years and was campaigning on behalf of the National Association for Probation Officers (Napo), said both victims and offenders will be affected.
“We have heard horror stories from prisons that have been privatised. We don’t want the same to happen to probation services,” said Albertine.
“If mistakes are made because people are cutting corners to meet targets it’s the victims who are going to be put at risk.
“No matter how serious the offence is people always come out.
“We are the people who keep an eye on those people and we have a lot of experience in doing that – this could be put at risk.
“It’s our view the Government are just trying to save cash and are not considering the public and the effects if they privatise probation.”
Under plans from March 31, the 35 local probation trusts will be closed down.
They will be replaced by a single centrally-run public sector service that will account for 30 per cent of cases and deal with the most serious offenders.
The remaining 70 per cent of the service will be moved into 21 community rehabilitation companies, also government-owned and centrally run.
After six months these will then be sold off to the cheapest bidder. They will be responsible for supervising the low to medium risk of harm offenders in the community – the group of people responsible for the majority of serious further offences.
“People always move – they may go from a high-risk offender to a low risk,” said Kate Daniels, who has worked as probation officer for nearly a year.
“If a company is being paid for high offenders they may not move that offender down.”
Providers will only be paid in full if they are successful at reducing reoffending, helping drive innovation and getting best value for hard working taxpayers.
Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said: “Today marks a crucial step forward to finally cracking our stubbornly high re-offending rates.
“Each year around 600,000 crimes are committed by those who have already broken the law – that is a dreadful figure and I am determined to bring it down.”
An e-petition has been launched online at www.
epetitions.direct.gov.uk/ petitions/44403, and Albertine was urging residents to sign it.
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