Public could be at risk in Northamptonshire as 131 probation officers face job cut

NAPO members in Northampton protested last year against cuts to probation services
NAPO members in Northampton protested last year against cuts to probation services
  • Probation company owner will over 12 months probation to every offender who has been in prison for more than a day
  • Offenders released from prison will have to report to machines, rather than human staff
  • Officers are concerned that machines will not be able to pick up signs suggesting a person may reoffend

​Public safety could be at risk in Northamptonshire as 131 probation service staff face redundancy, a union has said.

The National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) have also said that some face-to-face services will be replaced by machines.

Mark Ewington, NAPO chair for BeNCH - probation services in Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire - said: “These plans are dangerous for the public, service users and staff.”

Private company Sodexo officially took over the running of BeNCH in February.

It plans to launch its “through the gate” system, which will entitle every offender who is put in prison for more than a day to 12 months probation supervision.

Mr Ewington said: “This is great in theory, but it will be carried out with reduced staff and a “biometric reporting” system - a machine that offenders classed as low-to-medium risk log into and answer a couple of questions.

It short changes offenders, the public and the remaining members of staff who face an increased workload

Mark Ewington, NAPO chair for BeNCH

“This cuts out the human relationships between staff and offenders which is crucial to rehabilitation.

He also explained that many offenders who go on to commit serious further crimes come out of prison classed as low-to-medium risk.

He said: “A machine will not be able to pick up the signs that a person may be likely to reoffend. This is dangerous and it short changes them, the public and the remaining members of staff who face a 20-30 per cent work increase.

“Sodexo have not thought this through.”

In advance of the 30 per cent reduction to BeNCH’s workforce, every member of staff has been notified that their job is at risk.

A Sodexo spokesman said: “We are in the process of sharing our future plans with employees and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.

“We are looking at the possibility of introducing biometric systems in the future but details have not yet been confirmed.”

A statement from NAPO also claimed that Sodexo have recently gone back on an agreement to offer enhanced voluntary redundancy (EVR) to staff, before the cuts are made.

It said: “Sodexo have said that they think this is too expensive and will not be honouring this agreement.”

But a Sodexo spokesperson said: “We are complying with the National Agreement negotiated between the unions and NOMS (National Offender Management Service).”