Following official reports that probation workers, service users and the taxpayer were all being severely let down by the controversial privatisation of probation, justice secretary, David Gauke has announced that the service will be brought back under the purview of the state by 2021.
Dame Glenys Stacey, Chief Inspector of Probation, told the Guardian she was “delighted” by the news.
Stacey has previously criticised the privatisation project as “irredeemably flawed”, with up to 40% of offenders being supervised by six-weekly telephone calls rather than the face-to-face meetings normally required of ex-convicts.
“Probation is a complex social service, and it has proved well-nigh impossible to reduce it to a set of contractual requirements,” she said.
While she warned that “hard-pressed” workers for the service “now face yet more change”, she believed they would take the news “in good heart”.
“It is a chance to restore their professionalism, enabling them to make the biggest possible difference to the lives of some of the most troubled and troublesome people in society, and that is what gets probation staff up in the morning, above all,” she said.
National Officer for Probation at Unison, Ben Priestley, also welcomed renationalisation, but warned that the services must be managed at a regional level if they are to work effectively.
“Returning probation work to public ownership is a long-overdue step in the right direction. But Unison, along with the Labour Group of Police and Crime Commissioners, is convinced probation services are best delivered locally, rather than from the one-size-fits-all centralised model which is the National Probation Service,” he explained.
“The sooner probation is put back into local control to restore the confidence of staff, service users and the public, the better. The ruin caused by Chris Grayling’s botched reforms shows the service is just not safe in the hands of the Ministry of Justice.”