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24-hour probation service strikes in Somerset
8:51am Tuesday 5th November 2013 in News
PROBATION service staff across Somerset are due to go on strike today (November 5) in a row with the Government over privatisation.
Trade union, The National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO), say they have been forced into striking because of the Government’s plan to transform rehabilitation by privatising 70% of the service.
Staff will be striking in the form of a 24-hour walk out from midday today at the Taunton office in Canon Street.
Probation officers work with adult offenders, supervising those who are serving non-custodial sentences as well those released from prison on licence to protect the public, and work with offenders to show them the impact of their crime on their victims and the public to help rehabilitate them.
One probation officer Paul Roberts, 54, told the County Gazette that if the changes comes into force it will compromise public safety.
He said: “These changes will erode the work that we do with some people who have been involved in very serious offences.
“People are not going to be supervised and will commit further offences meaning crime will go up and thefts will go up enormously because they will not having people working with them.
“There is already a fear of crime and this is just going to fuel it – this is an additional stress for us on top of what is already a stressful job and the Government are just not listening.”
There are two other probation service offices in Somerset – Bridgwater and Worle – and under government proposals, private companies and charities would take over much of the service.
Firms are bidding for contracts worth more than £450million to supervise low and medium-risk offenders.
About 80% of NAPO’s 9,000 members are said to have voted to go on strike.
The Ministry of Justice said it has contingency plans in place to deal with the strike.
Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said: "It is disappointing NAPO has chosen to strike when we are making positive progress, in meaningful discussions with them and other relevant trade unions as we transfer to the new arrangements.
"This is a strike in favour of the status quo, which is high reoffending rates and no support for 50,000 short sentenced offenders each year who are currently released without any supervision and go on to commit so much crime in our communities.
"We have well established contingency plans to deal with any potential action. We will continue to support staff and engage with unions as our important reforms move forwards."
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