UNISON has warned today (Monday) that the privatisation of night time supervision in probation hostels is compromising public safety.
UNISON believes there are considerable risks involved with the outsourcing of probation hostel staff. It has raised concerns over the calibre, training and vetting of private sector staff who will now be looking after hostel residents requiring close and skilled supervision.
Until last month the National Probation Service ran night time supervision in probation hostels. But as a result of the service being privatised, half the night staff have now moved to private companies Sodexo and OCS. They began co-running night supervision last Thursday (1 March).
Justice Secretary David Gauke MP confirmed to UNISON last week that the private companies will be allowed to employ unvetted staff for the first two months of the contract.
Recent figures from HM Inspectorate of Probation show that more than one in ten of recalls to prison nationally were from probation hostel residents, with 2,962 sent back behind bars for breaching the terms of their prison licence in 2015/2016.
The National Probation Service runs 88 hostels in England and Wales, providing over 2,000 residential bed spaces for offenders in the community and housing mainly high-risk residents.
Most of the residents in these hostels have served prison sentences murder, violent crimes, or sex, gang or terrorism-related offences. They are sent to hostels after serving a prison sentence as part of their supervision and rehabilitation, because no other type of accommodation is suitable for them.
UNISON national officer for police and justice Ben Priestley said: “Probation hostels are meant to add to public safety, not diminish it. Until now, hostels were staffed by highly skilled, and well-trained professionals.
“Allowing employees who are potentially neither trained nor vetted to look after high risk ex-offenders is placing probation staff, other hostel residents and the communities in which the hostels are located at risk.
“Hostels look like ordinary houses in ordinary streets so the safeguards required are high. People stay there after prison because they continue to present a high risk of harm to the public and require skilled supervision.
“With this dangerous experiment, ministers are gambling with public safety.”