12:48, May 16 172 0 theguardian.com

2019-05-16 12:48:04
Probation service will take years to recover from Chris Grayling’s privatisation fiasco

The government’s decision to restore the probation service to the public sector is good news (Probation will be renationalised after disastrous Grayling reforms, 16 May). However, it is only the first step. For probation to provide the range and quality of services it once did in the justice sector will be a major rebuilding undertaking. Who will deliver the complex and skilled supervision of offenders that justice secretary David Gauke talks of? It is my understanding that the size of the probation service staff has been halved since privatisation. Significant numbers of qualified and experienced probation officers have been lost. And the qualifying training which was in place in the heyday of the service was abandoned some time ago.

To recruit, train and retain the numbers of staff needed by the service will take years to achieve. And if this succeeds, where will they be housed? In my area, like most, we developed a network of district offices and units to accommodate staff and deliver services locally. In Northumbria, we had 41 offices and units. Since 2014, 35 have been closed and are now either sold or rented, or up for sale or rent. To achieve the kind of probation service Mr Gauke intends will require major planning and resources. It will demand sustained political will. I hope that his intentions do become reality.

Mike Worthington

Former chief probation officer, Northumbria

I was the chair of the London branch of the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) from 2012 to 2016. As Chris Grayling’s reforms destroyed the probation service, I watched as careers were destroyed and the health of some of my members was ruined. I watched as my members did everything they could to bring the government to its senses. But I also watched as some senior managers pocketed large payoffs, at public expense, having done and said little to contradict their political masters. Grayling was told in no uncertain terms by Napo that his reforms were destined to fail. But he did not listen and his arrogance has cost this country a fortune. So although I welcome the news that probation is to renationalised, it is with a heavy heart.

Pat Waterman


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