Joint Press release from NAPO and UNISON

Sodexo, one of the world’s largest multinational companies, specialising in cleaning and catering, recently took over the running of the Northumbria Community Rehabilitation Company. This used to be part of the Probation Service but was privatised, despite the opposition of local MPs, in February 2015 by Chris Grayling, the Minister of Justice.

Two months after taking over they have now announced a huge reduction in staff numbers – reducing the staff by 43% – including over half of the qualified probation officers.  Similar cuts at HMP Northumberland, which is also run by Sodexo, caused huge problems when the prison was privatised.

Napo and UNISON believe such cuts to staff will endanger public safety.  Sodexo are not only supervising low risk offenders but also many people who have committed serious domestic abuse and other violent offences.  To cut costs the plan is for hundreds of offenders to be supervised remotely in future – either by telephone or through the use of “biometric reporting kiosks”.  Offenders have only to register their attendance with a fingerprint reading – without seeing anyone.  A similar system was introduced and then withdrawn by London Probation after widespread criticism.

Research proves that people are most likely to stop offending when they are supervised consistently by well trained staff who have a strong personal commitment to assisting them change – not by a machine!

The majority of serious, further offences are not committed by high risk offenders but by people whose risk levels have suddenly risen due to a change in their circumstances – this can only be spotted and acted upon if they are seen face-to-face – again a machine cannot do this.

Sodexo are also refusing to honour the terms of the voluntary redundancy agreement under which the probation service was privatised – even though money has been provided to them for this purpose.

The Right Honourable Nick Brown, MP said today:

“These changes present a real risk to the public. Carrying out the supervision of offenders in this way is untested.  This wasn’t properly explained to Parliament and, in minimising contact between the probationer and the private company, the Government are providing a dramatically reduced and in my view inadequate service.  Chris Grayling couldn’t even confirm in Parliament that these changes would save money.  Rushing these changes through undermines the Northumbria Probation Services’ award-winning, exceptional-rated service.”

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Vera Baird, has previously publicly opposed the privatisation of the Probation Service and had urged the Government to think differently.

In relation to this announcement she said:

“I wholly oppose these announced staff reductions which would include cuts to qualified probation officers. “I have said from the outset that introducing any sort of privatisation could significantly impact on the way serious offenders are handled and in turn impact on public safety. “To cut jobs following this privatisation can only increase the risk to public safety further.  Serious offenders need to be managed professionally and effectively, and by trusted reputable services with the expertise to deal with any circumstances. “I feel that taking away qualified probation officers and reducing staff numbers will jeopardise this offender management and have knock on effects on victims and community confidence which are two of my main priorities.”    


Northumbria Probation was previously the highest performing probation service in the country- these cuts and changes will in the view of Napo and UNISON seriously undermine their work and put the public at risk.


Napo:      Tania Bassett on 07904184195.

UNISON:       Tony Martin on 07957504911 or ring 07852292864. 


Office of Nick Brown, MP for Newcastle upon Tyne East: ( 0191 2611408 or 07518031540

Nick has voiced his concerns over the Government’s privatisation of the Probation Service. The Government’s plans involve outsourcing all low and medium risk offenders to private and voluntary groups without any proper pilot of the proposals. Nick spoke in Parliament against the proposals and submitted a petition collected by the National Association of Probation Officers.

Vera Baird, Northumbria Police & Crime Commissioner:

(  0191 2219800

About the author

Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming

A proud Northumbrian and a committed Trade Unionist. Member of UNISON's NEC. Sunderland supporter and Labour Party Activist.