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Gloucestershire probation officer quits job over Government privatisation plans, fears contractors will 'cut corners'

By jrmaidment  |  Posted: July 08, 2014

The justice secretary Chris Grayling has faced intense criticism over his plans for probation services

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A former probation officer has criticised the Government’s part-privatisation of the justice system amid fears contractors will “cut corners” to make profits.

The Government has replaced 35 probation trusts across England and Wales with a smaller number of community rehabilitation companies with the private sector invited to bid to run the services.

Joanna Hughes from Cheltenham worked as a probation officer for 17 years in the town and in Gloucester but decided to quit because she felt the changes made it “impossible to carry on”.

“To make a profit, private companies have to cut services,” she said.

“They will cut pay and… they will cut corners.”

Mrs Hughes has said previously the shake-up has been “hastily carried out” and is “skewed in favour of corporate interests”.

“The short term aim of the private companies invited to bid to run the services is to make a profit,” she said.

The community rehabilitation companies are tasked with supervising medium to low risk offenders.

Meanwhile, a new national probation service will supervise high risk offenders.

Mrs Hughes believes offenders are “slipping through the cracks” because of the two tier system.

She said the changes mean “probation staff are hugely overworked and demoralised”.

“Staff will haemorrhage,” she said.

“They will leave and the new private companies will employ people without any baseline training.

“We have always been a world leader in this area and we have always excelled, but I think our reputation is going to go very much downhill.

“Other countries are looking in bewilderment at what we are doing.”

Private sector contractors and mutual companies formed by probation officers were invited to bid for the right to run a CRC with contract decisions expected by the end of 2014.

Bidding has now closed.

The part-privatisation is believed to be the first time a market has been created on this scale in core probation services anywhere in the world.

The Government changes are aimed at reducing the UK’s reoffending rate.

Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, has said previously the new system will be “more efficient and less bureaucratic” than its predecessor.

Martin Horwood, Cheltenham’s Liberal Democrat MP, has questioned the way the bidding has been handled.

“I couldn’t understand why Conservative ministers were so determined not to allow the public sector to bid for this,” he said.

He suggested the decision may have been “ideological”.

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  • Spud0  |  July 09 2014, 8:14PM

    @IsitJimKerr The only rats here are the ministers that have an idealogical hatred of public services and want to hand everything over to their friends in the private sector to make easy profits - probation services, particularly in Gloucestershire was highly rated by the police and courts but an easy target for the privitise everything brigade in the government- the new unproven regime clearly risks public safety that has been sacrificed so the likes of G4S and Serco can make profits and have already been shown to have been ripping off the taxpayer with false claims for tagging offenders and poorly run prisons and have had to hand back £100 million - handing over probation services to these crooks is a huge mistake.

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  • SELINA30  |  July 08 2014, 4:54PM

    Only ten months till the General Election.

    |   5
  • berted  |  July 08 2014, 12:29PM

    That's another public service being sold off to profit- seeking fat cats. Watch the standards fall.

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  • IsitJimKerr  |  July 08 2014, 11:22AM

    BUt back to the subject, surely quitting your job because you THINK something might happen is a bit drastic. Talk about rats abandoning a sinking ship.......

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  • Lecorche  |  July 08 2014, 10:33AM

    Tory justice is not justice at all. The Conservatives still don't know the value of anything.

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  • SandraPee  |  July 08 2014, 10:16AM

    Just like the government 's guidelines re prison sentencing ........ judges have been told to keep as many offenders out of jail as possible and keep custodial terms as short as possible as it costs too much ! Meanwhile the government has wasted more than £40 million on an IT system which was not up to the job and was written -off in the last financial year re Iain Duncan-Smith's Universal Credit scheme , and it's emerged that the scheme hasn't yet been signed off by the Treasury , contradicting what was said last week . Whilst the government is wasting vast amounts of money its those trying to exist on very small household incomes who are carrying the can for errors made by others .

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