PROBATION workers and solicitors walked out yesterday in protest at what they say are disastrous plans to reform the probation service.

The Ministry of Justice is planning to split the current service and outsource about 70 per cent of it to the private sector.

Napo, the probation service union, claims lives are being put at risk and opposes the ’morally wrong’ changes being proposed.

The strike action began yesterday at midday and will last until midnight tonight with the union hoping to force the government to change their mind on the decision.

Today there are protests taking place by union members all over the country with Swindon members travelling to Cardiff. Among them is Albertine Davies who says it is a matter of principle, not personal gain, that is spurring her to take action.

She said: “As far as we are concerned this is a matter of life and death. As it stands we have one service which deals with everyone. With repeat offenders we are able to build up an understanding of them so if they go through a bad way we can offer help.

“If these changes go through then the person will have to go through a whole new process at a time when they need stability the most. People often assume that we are taking action over pay or jobs but that is not the case.

“There are no compulsory redundancies so I am secure on the issue. We are fighting for what is right.”

According to Napo, the changes going through mean any company is in a position to bid for the parts of the service being outsourced. They will earn money on a performance related system, something else which has seriously concerned the union.

Albertine said: “There is a real risk that they will only work with the easiest cases as there will be no money to make from the other cases. This could well leave some of the most vulnerable cases at risk of not getting any help.

“It is wrong that companies should be making money out of other people’s misery and crime.

“The government argument is that the system needs reforming but crime is falling even though these are the tough economic times when you would expect crime to be rising.

“This is an ideological move and it needs to be stopped.”