UK unions campaigning for privatised English and Welsh probation services to be brought back in house will be heartened by last week’s report by the chief inspector of probation, who said public ownership was a safer option for core work.
In a damning assessment, Dame Glenys Stacey said the partial privatisation of the service was irredeemably flawed. She highlighted a range of problems including staff shortages, sub-standard performance, and privacy and safety issues.
The management of over 250,000 offenders was part-privatised five years ago by the hapless Tory minister Chris Grayling, who hit the headlines more recently for awarding a £13.8m ferry contract to a company with no ships.
Fórsa official Eugene Quinn, who looks after the union’s Probation and Welfare Officers’ branch, said the UK experience underlined the folly of privatisation. “This is encouraging for the three British unions that have fought this for five years, and we wish them every success. The case for bringing the service back in house is now overwhelming,” he said.
Unison, the GMB and probation officers’ union NAPO have been running a public campaign and petition on the scandal, which saw one major private provider of probation services for “non-serious” offenders go into administration, only to be replaced by another private company.
Their ‘We Own It’ campaign says ex-offenders are finding it harder to reintegrate back into society, while the number committing another serious offence has risen by 20%.
During Grayling’s watch, 35 public sector probation trusts were replaced by the publicly-owned National Probation Service, along with over 20 privately-owned ‘community rehabilitation companies’.