PROBATION workers in South Tyneside have completed their two-day strike against a Government revamp of the service.
Members of the probation officer’s union, the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) protested outside South Tyneside Magistrates’ Court on Monday and yesterday against plans to outsource up to 70 per cent of the service to private companies.
Under the Ministry of Justice’s plans, most probation work, supervising low and medium-risk offenders, would be transferred to private firms and voluntary groups.
South Tyneside Probation Service says the radical moves come at a time when it is enjoying the best performance record of any public service – with re-offending rates at their lowest level since 2007.
Ken Harrison, team manager of South Tyneside Probation Service, said: “We are the only office covering the area of South Tyneside.
“About 900 offenders are managed by us, with most of them having some form of supervision.
“We are a successful organisation that doesn’t have a lot of public exposure and understanding. We don’t wear uniforms, we go about our work quietly and effectively.”
Mr Harrison says the public are becoming more aware of the importance of the work they carry out and says the protest has won strong support from residents.
Union members held up placards calling for passing motorists to honk their horn in support of their fight to halt privatisation of the service.
Mr Harrison added: “The work we do is very important to the comunity. The public is gradually picking up the pace in terms of the Government wanting to privatise and recognise that public services are under pressure.”
NAPO says that its staff are trained to assess the risk of re-offending and that no provisions have been in place for the future training of staff employed by firms given probation work.
They say bidding companies would supervise medium-risk offenders – which include burglars, those responsible for domestic abuse and violent offenders.
The Government wants to outsource work with low and medium-risk offenders before the end of the year. Successful bidders for the work will be paid according to how well they cut re-offending rates.