The privatisation of probation services was branded a “colossal failure”. A new report revealed tens of thousands of offenders are supervised by phone calls every six weeks instead of face-to-face meetings.
Investigations found the service lacks management focus, with workloads too high, inexperienced officers and extremely poor oversight leading to a lack of control. Some offenders are not seen for months.
The National Probation Service was created to deal with high-risk cases in 2014 in a disastrous £3.7 million partial privatisation, with the supposed “easy pickings” handed out to 21 private community rehabilitation companies (CRCs).
In her annual report, Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey found that thousands of offenders were met only once before they were placed on “remote supervision,” which could involve a brief phone call every six weeks.
The inspection report highlighted that a man convicted of supplying class-A drugs was charged with wounding while he was being “managed” by phone.
And another with more than 30 convictions, including for domestic violence, was also managed by phone calls with no face-to-face contact after his release from jail.
The inspection found staff were working under pressure with the London CRC relying on agencies despite a 12 per cent fall in the number of offenders.
Some officers were overseeing an astonishing 900 cases while junior staff were responsible for as many as 200 offenders. Some CRC models allow four in 10 of their caseload to be managed remotely.
Pat Harrington, general secretary of Solidarity, commented: "Quite apart from the stress this botched privatisation places on workers it also represents a danger to the public. Probation services are vital in seeking to prevent further crime from those released back into the community. Many privatisations happened for ideological rather than practical reasons. This is a case in point. If something isn't working well as a private service it needs to be returned to public ownership."