Probation in England and Wales needs “significant additional investment” if the government is serious about its plans for tougher monitoring of prisoners convicted of terrorism related offences when they are released, says UNISON.
Speaking after home secretary Priti Patel said she wanted a tougher regime and would look to produce a new anti-terrorism bill in the spring, national officer Ben Priestley said that investment needs to feature in this year’s budget and comprehensive spending review.
He warned that “the home secretary’s amitions to reform the management of those convicted of terrorist offences will be seriously hampered if the current staffing crisis in the National Probation Service is not resolved.
He noted that last week’s report from the probation inspectorate highlighted severe shortages of probation officers and victim liaison officers, out-of-control workloads, shabby workplaces and poor facilities management.
It also said the system of private contracts to cover probation hostels and other approved premises, which house the most serious offenders on probation, is “failing”.
UNISON is calling for these private contracts – employing staff on the minimum wage to oversee serious offenders, including those convicted of terrorism offences – to be ended. It also wants the pay of staff to be reviewed.
Noting that there are currently 600 unfilled probation officer vacancies in the National Probation Service, Mr Priestley said that Ms Patel’s plans to increase training and create more specialist counter-terrorism probation officers “will only work if the NPS has the staff to train in the first place”.