Probation service changes risk increasing youth reoffending, union warns

By Joe Lepper

| 05 October 2012

Youth reoffending and custody rates could soar if government plans to privatise £600m worth of probation services go ahead, the union representing the profession has warned.

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Napo is to give members of the House of Lords a series of 11 briefing papers, to showcase probation service success stories

Napo, the probation and family court union, argued that proposals to put 60 per cent of probation work out to competitive tender could jeopardise links between adult probation services and youth offending teams (YOTs), undermine support for offenders and increase reoffending and the use of custody.

The union is launching a campaign in a bid to convince government to rethink its proposals. It intends to focus lobbying efforts on members of the House of Lords, who will be scrutinising the Crime and Courts Bill, which contains the changes, this month.

Napo assistant general secretary Harry Fletcher said: “Probation officers are seconded to YOTs. We know that the terms and conditions and training offered by private firms are likely to be greatly reduced. This will lead to a poorer quality service and I have no doubt we will see a rise in reoffending rates and the use of custody.”

Gareth Jones, vice chair of the Association of Youth Offending Team Managers added: “If profit is one of the motivations for the provider I can see costs cut, roles disappearing and unqualified staff being used as that link with YOTs. For the larger YOTs, where more probation workers are seconded, I can see their numbers dropping as well.”

As part of the campaign, Napo will provide members of the House of Lords with a series of 11 briefing papers, to showcase probation service success stories, explain the complexity of support that offenders need, and question the transparency of the tendering process.

Fletcher added that YOTs could be the next service to face privatisation once probation services are tendered out.

“This tendering exercise is not about improving quality,” he warned. “The service already operates to a high standard. This is based purely on ideology and I can see youth offending services being next.”

A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “The public's safety is our top priority. We are extending competition to bring innovative, quality services to reduce reoffending, provided by those best placed to do so, whether they are in the public, voluntary or private sectors.”

She added that contracts would be awarded on a payment-by-results basis that “will help ensure taxpayers' money is only spent on projects that are successful in cutting crime.”

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