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Probation service workers strike in Winchester
4:27pm Tuesday 5th November 2013 in News
HAMPSHIRE probation workers took to the picket lines in Winchester today to protest the possible privatisation of the service.
Members of the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) gathered outside Hampshire Probation Service’s headquarters in Andover Road, waving banners and placards as part of a 24-hour walk out.
The strike, which involved around 250 Hampshire employees, is in response to Ministry of Justice proposals to transfer much of the service to private companies.
More than £450m worth of contracts offered to the private and voluntary sector covering supervision of 225,000 low and medium-risk offenders a year on a payment-by-results basis.
A new public sector probation service would retain 31,000 high-risk offenders each year.
Tina Williams, co-chair of the Hampshire and Isle of Wight branch, said: “The changes that the MoJ and [Justice Secretary] Chris Grayling want to make are based on misleading information given to the public and are going to put the public in real danger.
“We can foresee there are going to be serious further offences by people who are not managed properly. We are talking about lives here.
She added private probation services could involve offenders dealing with computers rather than people.
Ms Williams said: “The public need to know the impact this will have on them. They don’t want someone who burgled their home to be treated like a call centre would.”
Fellow co-chair Ishret Devine said: “The offenders that would be risk managed by the likes of Serco or G4S are going to be low to medium risk offenders who we know as professionals are the ones most likely to carry out serious further offences.
“This is a category that is quite volatile with a dynamic risk and it would be given to private companies that will be most concerned about profits.”
She added: “We save the taxpayers lots of money. It costs £40,000 to keep someone in prison each year but only £17,000 to be managed by this public service in the community.”
It is only the fourth strike in Napo’s 101-year history.
The co-chairs also said they would be happy to continue working with charities but that voluntary groups would not be able to compete with private companies when bidding for contracts.
Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said: "It is disappointing Napo has chosen to strike when we are making positive progress, in meaningful discussions with them and other relevant trade unions as we transfer to the new arrangements.
"This is a strike in favour of the status quo, which is high reoffending rates and no support for 50,000 short sentenced offenders each year who are currently released without any supervision and go on to commit so much crime in our communities.”
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