Napo repeats demand for public inquiry into the probation service

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Press Release 13/04/2022

Embargo: Immediate Release

Union repeats demand for public inquiry into the probation service

Napo, the Trade Union and Professional Association representing workers in the Probation Service and Family Courts today repeated its call for a public enquiry on the state of the Probation Service in England and Wales.

This follows the broadcast of a BBC Radio 4 documentary airing tonight entitled “Licence to Kill?”. This production highlights the anguish of the parents of two separate victims of murders committed by individuals who were being supervised by the Probation Service, and their respective campaigns for answers and accountability. This will be available on BBC sounds tomorrow.

The BBC have claimed that over 500 other serious further offences (a serious violent or sexual offence committed by a person subject to probation supervision) have been recorded between 2014 and the present day.

The programme will also explore the direct impact of the decision in 2014 by the then Secretary of State for Justice Chris Grayling, to implement a highly controversial plan to contract out the supervision of low and medium risk clients to 21 privately run Community Rehabilitation Companies (Transforming Rehabilitation).

This policy was subsequently reversed in June 2021 after a long campaign by Napo. However, the programme also features a moving testimony from an anonymous Probation Practitioner recounting the warnings from experts against the Transforming Rehabilitation programme changes which, despite the reunification of the service into public control, is still causing significant issues today.

Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence says: “Napo welcomes this expose of the earlier disastrous political decision by the former Secretary of State for Justice which has cost the taxpayer unknown millions and has directly led to an underfunded and overworked Probation service which currently simply does not have the capacity to guarantee the required levels of public protection that our communities deserve. The thoughts of our members go out to the families of the two victims featured in the BBC programme and to all those families who have lost their loved ones as well as the victims of other serious further offences.”

A direct result of Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) is an ongoing staffing and workloads crisis in probation. The private sector cut staffing levels to the bone during TR, while poor pay across both sectors has led to poor recruitment and retention rates, low morale and ultimately dangerously high workloads. On average staff are working to 130% of the workload management tool with many nearing 200%.

Ian Lawrence says: “It is simply not sustainable for probation staff to continue in this current crisis with dangerously high workloads without the public being at risk of serious further offending. It is inevitable that under this extreme work pressure, mistakes will be made and the public and our members will be the ones most affected.”

The union is calling for urgent Ministerial intervention for probation, a detailed plan of how this crisis can be resolved, a full public enquiry into how the probation service has been allowed to fall into such disarray and what impact that has had on public safety.