CRACKS are appearing in the supervision of criminals as staff struggle to adapt to government reforms.
That is the view of the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) which continues to oppose the part-privatisation of the probation service, which takes effect from next month.
According to the union, experienced staff have left in vast numbers ahead of the changes and he called for their introduction to be slowed down.
“Some teams are really struggling to work as normal resulting in some offenders not being seen as often as they should,” said Dave Adams, chair of NAPO Warwickshire.
“This, coupled with the recruitment of new and inexperienced staff, is resulting in significant problems. Experienced staff are drowning under the workload and do not have the time to support new colleagues.”
From June 1 responsibility for the supervision of around 160,000 medium and low risk offenders a year will be passed to 21 privately-run Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs).
Overall £450million in contracts have been offered to private and voluntary sector organisations on a payment-by-results basis.
Responsibility for 31,000 high-risk offenders each year will remain in the public sector with the formation of a new National Probation Service.
Rugby MP Mark Pawsey has backed the changes, telling us back in January £4billion a year was being spent on prisons and probation without breaking the cycle of crime and offending.
He added many of the reforms were introduced by the previous Labour government.
But NAPO has concerns adding market economies into probation would mean corners are cut and re-offending would increase.
Former Rugby MP Jeremy Wright, the government minister for prisons and rehabilitation, defended the changes.
He said: “With more than half a million crimes committed each year by those who have broken the law before, I make no apologies for bringing a much needed sense of urgency to dealing with this unacceptable problem. The cost of re-offending is too high to just sit back and ignore.
“Through our reforms we are finally addressing the glaring gap that sees 50,000 offenders released on to the streets each year, unsupervised and free to go back to their criminal ways.”