Transforming Rehabilitation

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2013 Police & Justice Conference
12 June 2013

Conference notes with grave concern the Government’s plans to break apart the Probation Service in England and Wales, as set out in ‘Transforming Rehabilitation: A Strategy for Reform’, published in May 2013. If the plans were to be achieved, it would lead to:

1)The splitting of the current Probation workforce into:

a)a small residual public probation agency, located within the Ministry of Justice

b)21 government companies, formed out of the current 35 Probation Trusts, to form the basis of contract packages to be privatised in 2015.

2) The winding up of Probation Trusts as employers of probation staff

3) A prohibition on the ability of Probation Trusts to bid for the work that they currently provide, so ruling out in-house bids.

4) The privatisation of a majority of the work of Probation Service via remote Ministry of Justice let contracts.

5) An untried and untested payment by results model to fund the privatised contracts.

6) The transfer of UNISON Probation members to new employers with no certainty over future terms and conditions and pensions.

Conference further notes that these plans, if realised, will effectively abolish the Probation Service which was set up 105 years ago. If this happens, the links which the Probation Service has built up over the years with local authorities, police forces and local community and voluntary sector organisations will be lost at a single stroke. This will be bad for communities, bad for public safety and bad for those who rely on the supervision and care of the Service.

Conference rejects the vision for the Probation Service proposed by the Government and re-affirms UNISON’s commitment to a locally run and locally accountable Service rooted in public-public partnerships.

There is no evidence that the private sector can run Probation any more effectively or cheaply than the current arrangements. There is even less evidence that the payment by results model through which the Government proposes to fund the 21 contracts to run local probation will work in practice. In reality, payment by results looks like it was deliberately designed to exclude Probation Trusts from bidding for the work they currently carry out.

Conference notes that the Government’s plans are being forced through with unseemly haste to ensure that the Justice Secretary can achieve his privatisation vision by the time of the 2015 election. This timetable threatens to undermine the usual standards of consultation and information giving which UNISON and other stakeholders would expect in such a major public sector re-organisation.

Conference therefore requests the Service Group Executive to:

I)Vigorously oppose the Government’s plans to abolish the Probation Service as it currently exists.

II)Seek to intervene in the reform process to protect the interests of UNISON members at all times and via all necessary channels.

III)Consult UNISON Probation members on their willingness to take action to defend their jobs and services.

IV)Work with sister trade unions in the Probation Service and elsewhere to defend our members’ interests in common.

V)Work with UNISON Labour Link to help fight the Government’s plans and to work with sympathetic MPs, PCCs, Councillors and Lords.

VI)Continue to support the principle of Primary Justice, jointly developed between UNISON and the Local Government Information Unit, to promote a local and democratically accountable Probation Service.