Hundreds of probation officers are facing redundancy less than two months after the Ministry of Justice privatised the rehabilitation of low and medium-risk offenders.
The UK arm of France’s Sodexo won the right to run six of 21 community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) and formally took them over on 1 February amid union warnings that the private sector would inevitably make large-scale redundancies.
The move was controversial, given that the outsourcer Sodexo is best known for catering. The 21 contracts are thought to be worth in the region of £8bn over the next decade. Sodexo has already told probation staff in the Cumbria & Lancashire and Yorkshire regions that nearly 320 of them, about a third of the workforce, are likely to lose their jobs.
It is understood that similar cuts are about to be announced in two or more of the other four CRCs Sodexo manages, including the one that oversees Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire.
Earlier this month, Sodexo made what it described as a “public service pledge” at a Westminster reception. The group wanted to play down fears about the outsourcing industry and Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, spoke at the event.
Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, believes that the commercial nous of Sodexo, and other CRC winners such as the FTSE 250 group Interserve, will help drastically reduce the costs of probation. It is understood, for example, that Sodexo is planning to make savings by asking offenders to report to sophisticated machines rather than supervising officers.
Ian Lawrence, the general secretary of the Napo probation union, said: “Probation staff have been through hell over the past 18 months dealing with Grayling’s so-called reforms, and now many face redundancy and job insecurity. The use of call centres and machines instead of highly skilled staff is downright dangerous.”
A Sodexo justice services’ spokeswoman said: “We’re in the process of sharing our plans with employees across the six CRCs that we operate.”
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