12 April 2017 - Immediate Release
Private Probation Company ran uninsured vehicles for Community Service activities
A private company running probation services across Devon, Dorset and Cornwall failed to renew the insurance policy covering the fleet of vehicles used to transport offenders to community service activities.
Information obtained through a 'whistleblowing' employee indicates that a number of employees were not covered by valid vehicle insurance from the period of 27th March up to last weekend. The ensuing chaos was compounded by a delay, a few days previously, with the delivery of fuel cards. This resulted in some of the fleet being grounded miles away from their scheduled use at the weekend with desperate staff using their own vehicles to transport offenders back from community service assignments.
The BBC has learned that probation staff had queried the insurance cover situation in meetings with managers last week, as copies of valid insurance certificates are no longer kept inside vehicles since Working Links switched to a centralised fleet management system.
It is understood that the company ordered a lock down on the use of all fleet vehicles within the operational areas while steps were taken to rectify the situation. A number of supervisory staff who were concerned about their legal position, used their own vehicles to advise offenders at Community Service sites to stand down from their activities, which in some cases meant that offenders had to make their own way back from assignments. A number of issues have been raised by staff regarding the loss of community service provision, estimated at 8 hours for around 70 offenders, and the impact on those organisations who expected unpaid work to be carried out on their behalf. Queries are also being raised about other vehicles owned by Working Links that are thought not to have valid MOT certificates.
Staff have also expressed anger at the impact on the general credibility of Aurelius/Working Links whose business model has been the subject of a long running dispute with the trade unions representing employees across the three Community Rehabilitation Companies that they own which also include the two CRCs covering the Bristol, Gloucester, Somerset and Wiltshire region, and Wales. This dispute was featured in a recent 'Inside Out' documentary by BBC South West which focused on a serious further offence that took place in Plymouth on New Year’s Eve 2014, which resulted in the murder of Tanis Bhandanis.
Furious staff have been in contact with their trade union Napo. Ian Lawrence General Secretary said: “Napo intends to ask the Prison and Probation Agency to investigate what has gone on, and whether the lack of insurance cover and reported MOT failures goes back even further. They should also look into the loss of community service hours, the legal risk to staff and clients and make their findings public. This incident again spells out the folly of privatising half of the probation service and putting it in the hands of companies such as Working Links who have failed the taxpayer in so many ways.”
For further information and possible media opportunities please contact Napo General Secretary Ian Lawrence on 07788 118005