Protest day to mark closure of Probation Service

Probation workers in England and Wales are set to mark the last working day of the 107-year-old Probation Service tomorrow (30 May) with a day of action highlighting their campaign to protect the probation service from privatisation.

UNISON’s 4,500 probation members will hold lunchtime protests with colleagues from the NAPO and GMB unions, in the latest effort to raise public awareness of the Government’s proposals to break up the probation service and turn it over to profit making private companies.

The 35 existing local Probation Trusts will be abolished next week, with staff transferred to either the new centralised National Probation Service (NPS) or one of 21 Government-owned Community Rehabilitation Companies(CRCs). These Government-owned companies will be sold off to the private sector later this year.

The Probation Service is one of the most successful and efficient public services. It plays a vital role in rehabilitating offenders, protecting victims and keeping communities safe.

However UNISON is warning that the proposed reforms will compromise public protection by complicating simple processes and preventing staff working in the same office from talking to each other about probation cases. Splitting work among two separate organisations will require expensive new IT systems and mean work will be unnecessarily duplicated.

Evidence seen by UNISON suggests that the budgets for the CRCs will be significantly reduced compared to current funding for Probation Trusts.

UNISON national officer Ben Priestley said:

“None of the Government’s proposed reforms has the support of probation workers, or the justice community, because they are unnecessary, costly, bureaucratic and unsafe. Behind the complicated reform agenda hides a sting in the tail – big cuts to probation budgets. 

“Reduced budgets would mean that the private sector, which is being asked to bid to run the CRCs, is being sold to companies under false pretences. Company owners will have to make difficult and controversial decisions if they are to meet the financial constraints which the funding for the CRC contracts is going to place on them.

“They are being set up to fail and it is community safety which stands to lose the most.”


Notes to Editors: 

UNISON’s Report ‘Complicating Rehabilitation’ sets out the risks of privatising the probation service: