Renationalise failing privatised probation services, say unions

The government must bring failing privatised probation services back under public control instead of leaving the taxpayer to bail them out, UNISON, NAPO and GMB said today (Wednesday).

The three public service unions have written to justice secretary David Lidington highlighting how ‘risky and controversial’ reforms – where private probation firms manage thousands of people who have committed offences – are not working.

They say findings from a long-awaited review of these so-called community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) must be published in full, along with details of the public money that has been spent keeping CRCs solvent.

The call comes as new figures* released by the government show a rise in the number of people who commit serious crimes while already serving sentences outside prison.

This is since probation service reforms were introduced three years ago.

UNISON, NAPO and GMB also warn about the government’s next privatisation plan to outsource contracts for night-time supervision in probation hostels.

These premises house some of the most dangerous people to be released from prison before they are allowed to live in the community.

The public could be put at risk because private companies will employ poorly trained staff and pay them low wages, say the three unions.

UNISON national officer Ben Priestley said: “People are potentially being put at risk because private firms have not delivered on keeping the public safe.

“The justice secretary has admitted that privatisation isn’t working yet wants to continue this experiment through night-time supervision.

“What’s needed instead are properly trained public sector employees. That’s why the government must take back control of failing private probation services.”

NAPO general secretary Ian Lawrence said: “Ministers were warned that privatisation would damage an award-winning service, and standards would deteriorate.

“This is now becoming reality and having a negative impact on public safety, staff well-being and the ability of people who have committed offences to turn their lives around.

“The government must now take urgent action, and these reforms should be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny.”

GMB national pensions organiser George Georgiou said: “Probation services have suffered more than most under this government. These latest proposals will only undermine provision and morale, and put the public at further risk.

“It’s time to put common sense first and invest properly. Privatisation has completely failed and the last thing we need is more of it.”

Notes to editors:
* A total of 517 reviews were triggered in England and Wales in 2016 to 17 after charges for murder and other offences including rape. This is a rise of more than 100 since 2012 according to the data released this month by justice minister Sam Gyimah.
– Former justice secretary Chris Grayling created a total of 21 privately run CRCs in 2014 to manage low to medium-risk offenders, and replaced the former probation trusts. A new National Probation Service (NPS) was created at the same time to deal with high-risk offenders.
– CRCs were awarded seven-year contracts worth a total of £3.7bn, but nearly all have reported they are already making a loss.

Media contacts:
– UNISON: Sophie Goodchild T: 0207 121 5546 M: 07767 325595 E:
– NAPO: Tania Bassett T: 0207 223 4887 M: 07904 184195 E:
– GMB: Alex Jones M: 07958 156846 E: