A group of probation workers staged a protest in Northampton’s Market Square against Government plans to transfer the community supervision of former offenders to private companies.
The probation workers took part in a national day of action, organised by the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO), during their lunch break.
The workers believe that Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, is putting public safety at risk and threatening jobs through his determination to push ahead with the £800m privatisation of the bulk of the National Probation Service.
Under the moves, from March 31, 2014, the 35 existing regional probation trusts will be replaced by 21 ‘community rehabilitation’ companies which will tender out the work of supervising more than 200,000 offenders each year considered to present low or medium risk.
Potential bidders include such firms as G4S and Serco, which are both being investigated over alleged fraud in Ministry of Justice contracts.
Those regarded as high risk will continue to be monitored by a much smaller national probation service. NAPO says the consequence of the proposals is that 18,000 staff face job uncertainty.
Lesley Donoghue, spokesman for the Northamptonshire branch of the National Probation Service, said at Friday’s protest: “People do not realise what is going on. They are looking to bring these proposals in on April 1. We are very concerned about how the changes are going to work.”
Mr Grayling has said the plans are essential to drive up standards in probation and to reduce reoffending levels. Six out of 10 people who leave prison are reconvicted within two years.
Mr Grayling said: “We are committed to introducing our important reforms, which were widely consulted on. This includes a new public sector National Probation Service that will supervise our most dangerous offenders. We will continue to support staff and engage with unions.”
Napo has set up a petition to fight the Government proposals. To sign it go to www.epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/44403