Failing services face private competition

Probation services that fail a “rigorous” inspection over the next 12 to 18 months could be put out to competition from private and voluntary sector providers, the government announced last week.

In a report on the responses to its consultation on restructuring probation, the government said the move was necessary to improve performance.

Despite acknowledging that the proposals were viewed as “contentious” by many of the organisations consulted, it reiterated plans to introduce legislation to restructure the service.

However, in response to widely expressed concerns over the “destabilising” effect of introducing changes too quickly, the government conceded the plans would be phased in.

It also announced it would publish a secure estate strategy and a contestability prospectus – outlining plans for commissioning and opening services up to competition over the next five years – in May.

Probation officers’ union Napo claimed only four or five out of the 748 consultation responses supported the government’s plans.

General secretary Judy McKnight said the government’s determination to go ahead with the legislation put campaigners “back to square one”.

She added: “Once the legislation is in place any set of ministers could come in and in effect chop us as a service and privatise us at will.”

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