Fringe Box



Guildford Probation Officers Protest As Part of National Strike

Published on: 6 Nov, 2013
Updated on: 7 Nov, 2013
Probation officer and NAPO National Executive member Vivienne Cameron with supporter and former colleague Mike Adams outside the Woodbridge Road Office today (November 5).

Probation officer and NAPO National Executive member Vivienne Cameron with supporter and former colleague Mike Adams outside the Woodbridge Road Office yesterday (November 5).

Protesting probation officers made their presence felt in Guildford today as part of a national 24 hour strike, ending 12am today (November 6) over the government’s plans to privatise large parts of the service.

The protesters were positioned outside Guildford probation office in College House, Woodbridge Road, near the bus station.The strike has been organised by the Probation Service trade union NAPO who have registered a trade dispute over proposals to transfer most of the service to private companies such as G4S and Serco.

A Ministry of Justice minister said that the strike was “disappointing”.

Mike Adams, a former senior probation officer who was supporting his former colleagues said: “This is about protecting the public properly. Probation officers have to constantly assess the risk of those on probation re-offending.

“Under government plans, those deemed low or medium risk will be delegated to private companies but those of us experienced in this field know that offenders can move from one risk category to another very quickly and it would be impractical to transfer them from a private contractor to the probation service and back again. What would happen to their case records, for instance?

“These changes can happen quickly. It can be a dynamic situation.

“Some reports have been misleading because they have included re-offending rates of offenders on probation who have been sentenced to less than 12 months imprisonment. The Probation Service has never dealt with those.”

The probation service in Surrey and Sussex were combined in a re-organisation in 2010 when there were also plans for the two county police constabularies to merge.

The Surrey and Sussex probation service employs around 670 staff  working in seven prisons, two approved premises, magistrates’ courts and crown courts and 12 main office locations.  Each probation officer has a case-load of approximately 50 cases. Other staff work in supporting roles such as training, research, IT, administration, finance and human resources.

In Guildford the proposed changes would only affect probation officers working at offices in Woodbridge Road. The hostel or “approved premises” in St Catherine’s, Guildford for high risk offenders released on licence, will remain staffed by civil servants in the probation service.

According to the BBC, 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 re-offending 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.

“We have well established contingency plans to deal with any potential action. We will continue to support staff and engage with unions as our important reforms move forwards.”

Ian Lawrence, NAPO general secretary said: “It is wholly unacceptable that these two companies [G4S and Serco] are allowed to bid for the Probation Service whilst still under investigation for fraud regarding tagging and given their recent track records with the Olympics, private prisons and prison transport.

“The Probation Service is possibly the best performing public service we have, meeting and exceeding all government targets, reducing re-offending and being awarded the British Gold Award for Excellence in 2011.”

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