Probation staff fears for newly privatised East Anglian service

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Probation officers fear the privatisation of Suffolk and Norfolk’s community rehabilitation service has been done without checking the system works.

The Secretary of State for Justice signed the contract last Thursday with multi-national services company Sodexo, who also run The Apex’s catering, and crime reduction charity Nacro.

Tony Leech, managing director of Sodexo Justice Services, said: “Sodexo has 20 years’ experience in the UK justice sector as a trusted partner to the Ministry of Justice and the National Offender Management Service, delivering high-quality, ethical and innovative rehabilitative services.

“Nacro has been working for nearly 50 years on successful programmes.”

But Robert Palmer, East Anglian chairman of NAPO, the union and professional body for family court and probation staff, said they were concerned that the privatisation nationally had been pushed through with inadequate pilot studies.

He added: “Sodexo’s experience is with custodial matters. If someone kicks off in a prison you put them in another cell. If someone kicks of in a probation office, they walk out the door.

“Nacro works mostly with people who come in voluntarily, not people who are there in a statutory situation. Working with offenders who don’t want to be there is another matter.”

The new system splits probation in two, with one organisation dealing with medium risk and the other with higher risk, which probation offers fear may create a weakness..

Mr Palmer added: “The record of the private and voluntary sector in social care and criminal justice matters isn’t a record we consider credible.”

He said that they had not yet been given information on how Sodexo and Nacro were to deliver and what affect it might have on jobs.