The Socialist 8 August 2018 |
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Take on probation privatisation with union action
Women striking against attacks on the probation service, photo Paul Mattsson (Click to enlarge)
Napo union member
Privatising probation services through the 'transforming rehabilitation' programme has been an absolute disaster, and an expensive one at £3.7 billion!
Trade unions have opposed privatisation throughout this experiment, and the commons justice committee has now agreed that the scheme has been a failure. And yet, the Tories are still set to throw hundreds of millions of pounds more at it!
The experiment of using private 'Community Rehabilitation Companies' (CRCs) for probation services has resulted in a worse service for staff and for prisoners.
The splitting of services between public and private contracts has created a two-tier system and created a range of complications in administration and delivery. Putting unnecessary complications creates a serious risk to the successful rehabilitation of those leaving prison.
Privatisation often leads to cost-cutting measures to maximise profits. The CRCs often fail to provide anything more than phone calls and signposting of other organisations as their form of 'continuous support' for people leaving prison. Reducing reoffending requires a building of trust with prisoners, and weeks of support in housing, finance, education and so on, and CRCs are proving they are incapable of delivering this.
The CRCs now owe £110 million in fines due to their failure to meet performance targets - despite this outright failure they'll be paid £2.2 billion anyway!
Meanwhile, staff morale is at an all-time low due to high workloads, redundancies and a nine-year pay freeze. These are issues probation unions raise constantly, falling on deaf ears.
The Tories have refused to listen to the clear evidence. Instead, they have cut existing contracts by two years to 2020 - at a cost of £170 million - only so that they can begin retendering larger contracts! We see the same issue in the NHS.
Under the guise of unifying health and social care, health contracts are being put to tender covering far more services than previously, with the aim of making the offers more lucrative to private businesses. This carving up of public services for private contract serves no benefit to the public; its only benefit is to give profits to giant companies and their shareholders, at our expense.
Against the evidence that privatisation in any part of the public sector does not work, the Tories are pushing ahead with ending public ownership wherever they can. Not only have they refused to listen, the Napo trade union suspects that the Tories have pushed through these changes just before parliamentary recess so that they can be brought in with as little scrutiny and challenge as possible in parliament.
Urgent action from the trade union movement and from Labour is needed to fight privatisation and end Tory rule. Unions and campaigners should push to inform more probation staff and take a leading role in rallying support for industrial action and protest.
Mass action of workers in the probation sector, supported by the wider trade union movement, can push back Tory plans and put this weak government on the back foot and fold to the demands of workers in the probation sector.