Probation workers in Northampton have started a 24-hour walk out over controversial plans to pay private companies to rehabilitate criminals.
Members of the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) began the strike at midday today, ending it at midday tomorrow (Wednesday).
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 £800 million privatisation of much of the National Probation Service.
The union previously registered a trade dispute over proposals to transfer most of the service to private companies, such as G4S and Serco.
Speaking during a demonstration in Northampton’s Market Square earlier, chair of the local branch, Lesley Donoghue, said: “This is not just about jobs, it is about public protection. We have been shocked by the reaction and the lack of willingness to listen on the part of Chris Grayling. We say this is going to cost, big time, and will cause harm to the public.”
The Government wants to hand around 200,000 low and medium risk offenders who get short jail terms over to private firms for a period of supervision when they are released.
Currently, offenders who receive a sentence of less than 12 months are not available to probation workers.
However, probation staff say they could offer a better service, if they were given a chance.
Ms Donoghue added: “We would say give them to us, give them to the local trust so that we can help them.
“We work with people with mental health problems, with drug and alcohol problems, who come forward with long-standing issues and it does not go away over night. We are not supposed to be making a profit from rehabilitating offenders.”
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said this week’s strike was “disappointing”.