“The decision to break up and privatise the probation service will come back to haunt this government”, said UNISON the UK’s largest union, today.
The union backed the idea of greater help and supervision for those offenders leaving prison after short-term sentences, but warned that trying to do that at the same time as privatising the service and cutting costs was setting the system up to fail.
Ben Priestley, UNISON national officer for probation staff, went on to say: “We need a rehabilitation revolution across England and Wales, but the government’s plans will damage the service and will not deliver positive results. At best it will prove ineffective and at worse a dangerous experiment that will put the public at risk.
“UNISON is committed to continue fighting these unnecessary changes and will be examining the legal implications of privatising the service and seeking support from Labour, the Lib Dems and the public.”
The union has put forward its own alternative vision for the future of the service based on years of experience in probation, including:
- Protecting the 35 probation trusts so they retain their valuable local knowledge as well as existing partnerships with local authorities and the police;
- Proper financial flexibility for trusts to compete on a level playing field with the private sector;
- Independence for trusts from the dead hand of the National Offender Management Service;
- The introduction of genuine democratic accountability for probation via a new model of governance;
- The promotion of public-public partnerships to provide the additional capacity to supervise low risk offenders in the community, rather than the ideological push to privatise probation services;
- A primary justice funding model to devolve more Ministry of Justice funding to local authorities and/or police and crime commissioners to commission local rehabilitative services.