Probation should help the public, not profit

Your community is kept safe by probation staff. When people are released from prison or are given a community order, probation staff help them find work, find somewhere to live and readjust to living in society again.

The history

A well trained, well funded probation service keeps us all safe. Probation services were working well under public ownership: In 2013 the Ministry of Justice rated all 35 publicly owned probation trusts in England and Wales as good or excellent.

In 2014, then Justice Secretary Chris Grayling decided to privatise 70% of the service, splitting it in two. New private 'Community Rehabilitation Companies' (CRCs) would supervise low to medium risk offenders, and the pre-existing National Probation Service would supervise high risk offenders. This was pushed through without pilot schemes and it was a disaster.

By 2017, HM Inspectorate of Probation found that the publicly owned National Probation Service was protecting the public well, but the private CRCs were failing in half of cases. Thankfully, after a huge campaign victory, probation services are now back in public ownership.

Who owns our probation services?

We do! We Own It supporters, trade unions and MPs campaigned against the privatisation of probation. In 2019, then Justice Secretary David Gauke agreed to bring the probation service in England and Wales back into public ownership! This is a massive victory - read the full story of the campaign here.

From 2021, the probation service was unified again, with 12 probation areas across England and Wales taking responsibility for ex-offenders. The private contracts came to an end.

Probation is a devolved issue and it is run by local authorities in Scotland. Similarly, probation is also publicly run by the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland.

Key facts

  • Nearly 20,000 people signed the petition calling on David Gauke to bring probation into public ownership.
  • Recent data shows that one person was killed every three days by someone under probation in the years when the service was privatised.
  • When probation was privatised, the National Audit Office in 2017 revealed that private companies were underperforming on their contracts, yet the government rewarded them with a pay rise. 
  • A 2016 report showed that staff in outsourced probation services had expressed concerns about increasing risks to their safety in working conditions as companies prioritised profits over the wellbeing of staff and clients.
  • Working Links, a private firm responsible for probation provision in Wales and the South West, collapsed in 2019 and a report at the time found that the company’s leadership, staff, services, planning, implementation and delivery were all inadequate.

Do you believe in public services for people not profit?

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