Gordon has renewed his criticism of the Tory Government’s part-privatision of the probation service, after a report by the HM Chief Inspector of Probation described it as “irredeemably flawed”.
The system was partly privatised in 2014 by the now Transport Secretary Chris Grayling. In her final annual report, Dame Glenys Stacey said people would be “safer” if supervision of offenders in England and Wales was back into full public ownership.
Gordon originally challenged the Government back in 2014 when Chris Grayling announced the plans to outsource key elements of the Probation Service to private providers.
He said: “I highlighted then the letters and phone calls I had from constituents in the Probation Service worried not just about their jobs but also about the sensitivity and security aspects of keeping track of offenders in the Blackpool area, given such a fragmented system.
“The Government ignored these warnings and just ploughed on, but what I, the PCS Union and many others complained about has come true. As the Chief Inspector of Probation has made clear in her damning report, these private companies have failed to live up to the contractual requirements and targets they were set.
“Working in the probation sector is not an easy job. It requires skill and professional judgment to manage difficult clients and the risks involved. Losing experienced staff and the transience nature of Blackpool’s population just compounds the problems of this vital service.
“In June 2018 the Justice Select Committee said the Probation Service was in a “mess”. The changes brought in by Chris Graying have created an ineffective service with staff morale at an all-time low and support for offenders leaving jail as not fit for purpose.”
At the end of September last year, 258,157 offenders were on probation in England and Wales, either preparing to leave jail having just been released, or serving community or suspended sentences. More than 150,000 were supervised by private companies and the rest – deemed high-risk offenders – managed by the National Probation Service (NPS) in the public sector.
Other criticism of private providers in Dame Glenys Stacey included :
• Supervising offenders by telephone only, usually after an initial meeting
• Housing needs are met less often (54% of private cases compared with 70% of public cases).
• Inadequate protection for victims and their children when domestic abusers return to their community
• 22% of offenders released without knowing where they were going to sleep that night
• Officers in the private sector are carrying higher caseloads than those in the public sector