Barnstaple Probation service workers go on strike

Barnstaple Probation Service workers on their picket line outside Kingsley House as part of a 24 hou

Barnstaple Probation Service workers on their picket line outside Kingsley House as part of a 24 hour national strike. - Credit: Archant

Local union members take to the picket lines as part of a 24 hour national strike.

BARNSTAPLE probation workers have joined a national strike in protest at Government plans to privatise the service.

The 24 hour walk-out follows an ‘overwhelming’ national vote by union members for strike action.

A picket line and protest began at midday today (Tuesday) outside the Barnstaple offices of Kingsley House in castle Street and will continue until midday tomorrow.

The National Association of Probation Officers has called for the action in protest at Government plans to abolish existing probation trusts and to involve private firms in managing offenders.

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Alison Sylvester, a probation officer at Barnstaple for the public protection team, said they were striking because they feared the plans could put the public and communities at risk.

“The probation service nationally has proven to be very effective in reducing re-offending and protecting the public,” she said.

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“By privatising the service, the priority of these companies is going to be making a profit, so that is going to limit what money is invested in working with others and protecting the public.”

Under the plan, 21 ‘community rehabilitation companies’ will supervise those released from prison and those serving community punishments.

For the first time short-term prisoners who have served less than 12 months – some 50,000 in all - will also get supervision and help.

A smaller national probation service will be responsible for managing high-risk offenders and public protection cases.

“We are being divided up on March 31 next year, but the companies putting the bids in won’t be announced until later in the year.

“Many staff won’t know who they will be working for or how their terms and conditions will be affected.

“But that’s a very small part of what we’re concerned about.”

Ian Lawrence, Napo general secretary, added: “These are unprecedented times for our members as they fight to save the 106 year old Probation Service.

“They strong believe, along with other criminal justice agencies and experts that justice secretary Chris Grayling’s plans will undermine public protection and put communities at risk while also not providing the adequate service offenders need to turn their lives around.”

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