PROBATION officers in Swindon have announced that they will join hundreds around the country protesting against proposals to privatise the system.

The National Association of Probation Officers announced on Wednesday that members will once again stop work for 24 hours from noon on March 31 to protest against plans to change the system.

The controversial changes will see 70 per cent of offenders outsourced to the private and charitable sector.

After the changes come into effect only the 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, About 35 local probation trusts will shut and be replaced by 21 rehabilitation companies run under Government contracts by private companies and voluntary groups known as the Community Rehabilitation Company.

But Napo officials say the changes are recklessly dangerous, putting both offenders and members of the public at risk.

Albertine Davies, the secretary for the Napo in Swindon, said: “It is a matter of life or death. “We supervise the most dangerous people in our community. “Corners will be taken if people are trying to boost their profit margins for their share holders which will mean more crime, more victims and, ultimately, some of these will die.”

Now, Albertine is encouraging probation workers in Swindon and Wiltshire to join her and others to protest against the changes.

She said: “A high turn-out on the picket line will send a clear message to Chris Grayling that we do not agree with his reforms and are concerned about public safety if the sell-off goes ahead.

“Although the split is imminent, there is still everything to play for since, until the organisation is actually sold off to bidders, we just have a nominal split and a new way of working, which can evolve into something more integrated in the future again.

“But if we do not fight now, it will be too late after the contracts are signed.”

The changes are expected to be in place by April 2015, but Napo is asking the public to sign an online petition against the plans.

Go to stop-risking-public-safety to have your say. For more on the planned changes visit transforming-rehabilitation.