Preparing to fight probation meltdown

PROBATION AREAS in England and Wales face budget cuts of between 13% and 25% over the next three years. The National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) calculates that this will mean minimum job losses of 2,500, the vast majority being frontline staff.

Andy Ducker, Napo convenor, South Yorkshire branch

In consequence, the service may not be able to fulfil its statutory duties, the quality of supervision will deteriorate and fewer court reports will be produced. But Napo calculates that a 25% reduction in supervision and programmes will lead to the committing of at least 300,000 additional offences a year!

The level of cuts is unsustainable. The gains made in reducing re-offending over the last five years will be lost. In South Yorkshire staff members are being taken through the redundancy procedure, which includes an assessment centre, to determine which 40 people will lose their jobs this year.

Locally, the unions are mounting a joint campaign for a properly resourced, properly financed probation service that represents the communities where we live and serve the public. Napo and Unison have both held indicative ballots showing that over 95% of members who voted would be willing to take industrial action, including strike action.

We have registered a dispute locally and are urging the South Yorkshire Probation Service to remove the threat of compulsory redundancies. If they are unable to do so, we will ballot our members for industrial action.

We are trying to broaden out our fight to include all public sector trade unions working within the criminal justice system and in other public services. We will not let probation services be ruined.