Blackpool MP condemns 'flawed' probation service after 'damning report' from chief inspector

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden has renewed his criticism of the part-privatisation of the probation service after a chief inspector described it as 'irredeemably flawed'

Monday, 1st April 2019, 3:21 pm
Updated Monday, 1st April 2019, 3:28 pm
Gordon Marsden with campaigners on Blackpool Prom

The probation service, which works with criminals with an aim to reduce re-offending and protect the public, was partly privatised in 2014 by the now transport secretary Chris Grayling.

In a recent report, Dame Glenys Stacey, HM Chief Inspector of Probation, said it would be 'safer' if the service in England and Wales was back in public ownership.

Mr Marsden, who opposed the Government's plans to outsource parts of the probation service to private providers in 2014, said: “I highlighted then the letters and phone calls I had from constituents in the probation service worried not just about their jobs but also about the sensitivity and security aspects of keeping track of offenders in the Blackpool area, given such a fragmented system.

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“The Government ignored these warnings and just ploughed on, but what I, the PCS Union and many others complained about has come true. As the Chief Inspector of Probation has made clear in her damning report, these private companies have failed to live up to the contractual requirements and targets they were set.

“Working in the probation sector is not an easy job. It requires skill and professional judgement to manage difficult clients and the risks involved. Losing experienced staff and the transience nature of Blackpool’s population just compounds the problems of this vital service."

At the end of September last year, 258,157 offenders were on probation in England and Wales, either preparing to leave jail having just been released, or serving community or suspended sentences.

More than 150,000 people were supervised by private companies and the rest – deemed high-risk offenders – were managed by the National Probation Service (NPS) in the public sector.

Criticisms of private providers in Dame Stacey's report included:

• Offenders being supervised by telephone only, usually after an initial meeting

• Housing needs met in just 54 per cent of private cases, compared with 70 per cent of public cases.

• Inadequate protection for victims and their children from domestic abusers

• 22 per cent of offenders released without housing or shelter plans in place

• Officers in the private sector carrying higher caseloads than those in the public sector