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End Sodexo's abusive relationship with probation service: stop the jobs cull!
Chas Berry, Napo national vice chair (personal capacity)
With the ink barely dry on the probation privatisation contracts, the giant security firm Sodexo has announced sweeping redundancies amounting to one third of the staff it took on when work was outsourced to them at the end of February.
This is a huge kick in the teeth for staff who endured two years disruption during the so-called Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) programme and now face an uncertain future whichever government is in power after 7 May.
Sodexo owns six of the 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) now responsible for managing low and medium risk offenders. It also runs five prisons in the UK, three in Chile and provides a host of security services worldwide.
Conflict of interest
Some might suggest a conflict of interest between an organisation paid to reduce reoffending in the community while at the same time given large wads of cash for keeping offenders locked up.
Such a conflict was brought into sharp relief in February when probation chief inspector Paul McDowell was forced to resign over his marriage to one of Sodexo's senior managers. This didn't stop the 'marriage' of the CRCs going through however, and it's now becoming clear that those in a partnership with Sodexo find themselves in an abusive relationship.
Sodexo's plan for the supervision of offenders is a travesty of justice. In place of personal and meaningful engagement with individuals it intends to slash its face-to-face services and introduce call-centres and 'biometric' reporting.
Rather than being able to work with a trained professional on the often complex reasons why they offend, an individual will instead have to deal with their problems at a distance and in some cases with a machine designed to ask a standard set of questions. This is no way to reduce reoffending or protect the public.
Napo probation union reps in Sodexo have convened an urgent meeting to discuss the union's response to the redundancies.
If the security giant gets away with this the owners of the other fifteen CRCs will surely follow. Napo fought a long but ultimately unsuccessful battle to stop the break-up and privatisation of probation.
Members are now having to deal with the consequences of that loss. A new and angry mood is developing, however, and a determination to ensure that whoever replaces Chris Grayling as justice secretary is forced to reverse his disastrous slash and burn policies.
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