This Tory privatisation in the prison service is putting workers, the public and ex-offenders at risk

Staff from new private providers will not be vetted before starting work in probation hostels – the Tories are gambling with public safety.

The government has handed over running overnight probation hostels to two private companies – and their staff may not be properly qualified for the work, it’s been revealed.

Until last month the government run National Probation Service ran night time supervision in probation hostels. But half the night staff have now moved to private companies Sodexo and OCS since last Thursday.

The 88 hostels provide about 2,000 beds for ex-offenders who have just been released from prison. Most of the residents in the hostels have served prison sentences murder, violent crimes, or sex, gang or terrorism-related offences.

And recent figures from show that more than one in ten of recalls to prison nationally were from probation hostel residents – having staff not qualified for the work will exacerbate the problem, putting staff, the public and other ex-offenders at risk, UNISON warned today.

The union said there are ‘considerable risks’ involved with the outsourcing of probation hostel staff and raised concerns over ‘the calibre, training and vetting’ of private sector staff who will now be looking after hostel residents requiring close and skilled supervision.

And the BBC revealed today that staff from the private companies will not be “vetted” before starting work in the hostels – National Probation Staff had always required complete criminal record checks and licences from the security industry authority.

UNISON national officer for police and justice Ben Priestley commented this morning: “Probation hostels are meant to add to public safety, not diminish it. Until now, hostels were staffed by highly skilled, and well-trained professionals.” He continued:

“Allowing employees who are potentially neither trained nor vetted to look after high risk ex-offenders is placing probation staff, other hostel residents and the communities in which the hostels are located at risk.

“Hostels look like ordinary houses in ordinary streets so the safeguards required are high. People stay there after prison because they continue to present a high risk of harm to the public and require skilled supervision.

“With this dangerous experiment, ministers are gambling with public safety.”

Privatising probation hostels is just another example of the Tories gambling with public services for ideological ends. Are the risks to public safety and potential effect on re-offending rates really worth the risk?

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