Probation union calls for a halt to further probation sell off
In advance of the Public Accounts Committee session on 13 March, the major trade union representing Probation staff have called on Ministers to abandon their plans to remarket rehabilitation services following the failures of the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs).
Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence said: “The recent report by the National Audit Office not only confirms Napo’s warnings to Ministers that the earlier ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ reforms would not work and represented poor value for money to the taxpayer, but also clearly states that Ministers should pause and reflect on their plan to simply re-let probation services into 10 new package areas.”
The union claims that the current CRC contracts (which will terminate early in December 2020), have significantly failed in a number of key areas as identified in numerous reports by HM Inspector of Probation and have had to be sustained with additional ‘bail outs’ as their operational costs increased well above their original expectations. The NAO report also seriously criticised the operators of the contracts themselves, and highlighted the failure of the Ministry to manage them effectively and to hold providers to account.
Ian Lawrence went on to say: “Not only have the Community Rehabilitation Companies been unable to deliver services, but the National Probation Service also has significant failings. Staff shortages have resulted in unmanageable workloads across the board. In London, staff vacancies are at 20% so its’ clear that the NPS is not sustainable in its current form.”
The MOJ proposes to let 10 new contracts later this year with a view to increasing the size of the existing Community Rehabilitation Companies and reducing the number of providers. The proposals have been met with massive criticism from stakeholders across the board who are also calling for the MOJ to halt its programme and look at alternatives.
Ian Lawrence said: “I hope that the PAC will also look at the specific circumstances surrounding last month’s collapse of the three CRCs previously run by Working Links, who entered into Administration. There are serious questions as to who benefited from the two taxpayer funded ‘bail outs’ given to this most dreadful service provider and why constant warnings from the Probation unions about their financial and operational position were ignored by the MoJ for so long.”
Napo is calling for a reunified probation service under public ownership and control with a greater focus on local engagement. The NAO report cites concerns that other CRC providers could also become insolvent with speculation around the position of Interserve and that the Government have not properly mitigated for these risks.
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