Probation Service staff in Kettering joined a countywide strike today over what they say are concerns about safety to people living in the area.
Kettering members of Napo – the probation service union – walked out of their office in the Telford Way Industrial Estate at midday today in
They will also be taking part in a central rally with the Justice Alliance in London on April 1.
Lesley Donoghue, chairman of the Northamptonshire branch of Napo, said the union had concerns over Justice Minister Chris Grayling’s plans for privatisation of 70 per cent of the probation service.
She added: “This whole process is being rushed through without proper consideration to the effect on staff or the risk to public safety.
“In 2011 the probation service won the British Quality Foundation’s Gold Medal for Excellence (the first public sector organisation to win the award).
“Northamptonshire Probation Trust provides an excellent service to the local community and if given the opportunity would also assist in rehabilitating those sentenced to less than 12 months in prison”.
In January, the government published a white paper proposing that public-sector probation trusts should be replaced with privately run community rehabilitation companies, with responsibilities defined in the Offender Rehabilitation Bill.
The Bill was approved by the House of Lords earlier this month.
Mrs Donoghue added: “The union’s campaign to fight these proposals has seen support from a number of other agencies such as the Howard League for Penal Reform, Penal Reform Trusts, academics and professionals across the justice sector.
“In the House of Lords concerns have been raised about the lack of Parliamentary debate in relation to the biggest reforms the Probation Service has ever seen.
“The Justice Alliance, representing solicitors and law firms across the country will also withdraw their labour on March 31 and April 1. They are campaigning against the government’s cuts to legal aid.”
Ian Lawrence, Napo General Secretary said “Our members feel passionate about their profession and the work that they do to protect the public and rehabilitate offenders.
“They do not take strike action lightly and this has been a very difficult decision for them. But the public needs to know how these changes will impact on risk management and ultimately public protection.
“If the Secretary of State really believes in these reforms then we ask him to pause and to run pilots that can be independently evaluated to evidence they work.
“However, he refuses to do this and is pushing them through ahead of the general election. It will cost the public in terms of both safety and taxpayers’ money.”