Probation to be contracted out, home secretary confirms

The home secretary has reiterated a pledge to put out probation services to competition from other providers from April 2008.

In a speech at Wormwood Scrubs prison yesterday, John Reid said probation was “not working as well as it should” despite government spending on the service.

He highlighted the cases of John Monckton and Naomi Bryant, who were murdered by offenders on probation, as examples where the service had failed.

Legislation to open up the probation service to competition is expected to be introduced in the Queen’s speech at the end of the month.

Reid said once this was passed, probation services with an annual value of up to £250 million would be contracted out to other providers, with the voluntary sector “centre stage.”

In response to Reid’s speech, Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of probation union Napo, said the probation service was “performing better than ever at all levels.”

He added: “The probation service does not have the resources or the authority to offer 24-hour surveillance of those offenders thought dangerous.”

Fletcher also defended the probation service following a BBC investigation this week that claimed sex offenders in bail hostels were not being properly supervised.

“If the home secretary wants more intensive supervision then he must supply considerable numbers of additional trained and experienced staff,” he said.

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