Probation service uproar
5:30am Thursday 20th February 2014 in By Elizabeth Mackley
PROBATION officers in Swindon and Wiltshire have joined hundreds around the country in appealing against the jobs assigned to them under a new system.
Controversial changes to the probation system will see 35 local probation trusts shut down and replaced with 21 rehabilitation companies run under government contracts by private companies and voluntary groups known as the Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC).
Only 30 per cent of offenders who are most at risk of serious re-offending will continue to be seen by the remaining centrally-run public sector arm of the service, known as the National Probation Service (NPS), after the changes come into effect.
In the meantime, Probation Workers are being reassigned to jobs in the public-sector arm and the privately-run branch to ensure nobody is left out of a job, but despite having the opportunity to express which arm of the new service they wanted to be in, many have chosen to appeal against their new roles.
Albertine Davies, secretary for the National Association of Probation Officers in Swindon, said: “We have all had to express an interest where we want to be assigned. But I haven’t got a job description. We had to make a preference blind.
“I think a lot of people will decide to leave the service entirely and find work somewhere else that suits their particular skill set. I think probation will lose a lot of valuable people.
“We’re not concerned about our jobs, we’re concerned about the impact that it is going to have on offenders.”
Of the 120 staff working at the Wiltshire Probation Trust, four probation workers were not assigned their expressed preference, and three have chosen to appeal against the decision.
Liz Hickey, Deputy Director of Operations at Wiltshire Probation, said: “Most of the officers in Swindon were assigned the roles that they preferred, and only four didn’t. Of them only three appealed against the decision.
“In Wiltshire we are already trying to work a step ahead and on the basis that the changes will come in in order to make a smoother transition to the new system for our offenders. We want to continue to work while causing minimum disruption to our offenders.”
Nationally, 553 probation workers have appealed against their assigned roles, although Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said this was a fraction of the appeals he had been expecting.
The changes are expected to be fully in place by April 2015, but Napo is asking the public to sign an online petition against the plans.
l Go to www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/ stop-risking-public-safety to have your say. For more on the changes to the probation service visit www.justice.gov.uk/transforming-rehabilitation.
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