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”.