Stop Probation Privatisation

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2014 National Delegate Conference
25 February 2014
Carried as Amended

Conference condemns the Tory-led Coalition Government’s plans to split the probation service to create a small national probation agency for England and Wales to manage high risk cases whilst leaving the majority of the work to the private sector. The plans would see the dismantling of the 35 current probation trusts, who will not be allowed to bid, to the detriment of their experience, professionalism and track record of delivering a highly sensitive public service.

The break-up of probation services will severely disrupt existing local community safety partnerships between probation, the police and local authorities. The fragmentation of the service will disrupt sensitive work supervising offenders whose risk level can change frequently.

Conference believes that the Government’s plans are fundamentally flawed and will introduce a profit motive to an essential and sensitive area of public services with predictable results. There is no evidence that the private sector can run probation services more effectively or cheaply and the untried and untested payment by results model appears to be designed to exclude Probation Trusts from making in-house bids.

Conference notes reports in The Observer on 15th December 2013 that the Ministry of Justice’s internal risk assessment found that their plans would have a ‘very high chance’ of putting the public at greater risk and result in a poorer service for victims of crime. Conference further notes ongoing investigations by the Serious Fraud Office into allegations of fraud by private companies delivering contracts for the Ministry of Justice.

Conference also notes with concern recent reports that the Government Office in Scotland has been consulting with Ministry of Justice officials in relation to the ‘transforming rehabilitation’ programme in England and Wales. Conference believes that the fight to protect public services from cuts, job losses and privatisation brings together all regions and nations in the UK.

Conference believes that probation privatisation is as unpopular with the public as the Government’s plans for police privatisation proved to be last year. Police privatisation became the key issue within the election campaigns for the Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in England and Wales in autumn 2012, with wide-ranging concerns expressed by voters around transparency, financial and political accountability and dangers to public safety. Conference therefore also believes that successful local campaigning by local police service UNISON branches underlines the potential to mobilise communities locally and nationally against yet another dangerous experiment with public safety.

Conference asserts that a public service ethos is at the core of successful delivery of probation services and re-affirms UNISON’s commitment to a locally run and locally accountable Service rooted in public-public partnerships. UNISON has an alternative vision for a sustainable future for the probation service. Under UNISON’s model developed with the Local Government Information Unit, local authorities and probation would work together, with the emphasis being on cooperation and sharing of resources. It would retain services and jobs and develop genuine localism in probation provision. Conference believes that it is vital to oppose the erosion of the public services and campaign for a positive alternative vision.

Conference calls upon the National Executive Council to;

1)Work with branches, service groups, self organised groups and regions to campaign against the privatisation of the probation service and to promote UNISON’s vision for ‘Primary Justice’;

2)Work with the political funds to influence MPs, MSPs, AMs, PCCs, Councillors, local communities and other stakeholders to highlight the dangers and risks in privatising this essential service;

3)Work with branches and regions to organise the privatised probation workforce with the police and justice service group;

4)Work with Labour Link to influence the Labour Party to develop a progressive, community-centred approach to the rehabilitation of offenders;

5)Work with stakeholders to ensure that human rights and international labour standards are upheld in the delivery of probation services.