Probation sell off will “destroy the service as we know it”

UNISON, the UK’s largest union, is calling on the government to put a stop to its plans to sell off the Probation Service and drastically alter the way probation services are provided in England and Wales.

The union is warning that the government’s plans – due to be confirmed tomorrow – will “destroy the service as we know it”.

The government is planning to privatise the majority (70%) of the Probation Service, including offender management for all but the most dangerous cases. Services will be parcelled up into big regional contracts and sold off to the cheapest possible provider.

UNISON is deeply concerned about the introduction of a risky “payment by results” model, which does not take into account the demands of more difficult cases.

The union is calling on the government to recognise the success of the Probation Service, which met all of its targets in 2011/12, and won the prestigious British Quality Foundation Gold Award for Excellence. Reoffending rates have recently fallen to 35%.

Ben Priestley, UNISON national officer for police and justice, said: “There is already a very successful organisation that is busy rehabilitating offenders and protecting our communities – it is called the Probation Service.

“It is a testament to the hard work of the dedicated professionals in the service that reoffending rates have fallen recently. But instead of building on this success, the government wants to destroy the service as we know it. Selling these vital services off to the lowest bidder will spark a race to the bottom.

“What we need is a ‘rehabilitation revolution’. For too long we have relied on ineffective prisons that fail to reform offenders, to keep our communities safe. By comparison, community sentences work, and help to turn around people’s lives. What won’t work are the government’s plans to regionalise and privatise probation.”