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Probation cuts put communities at risk

PUBLISHED: 16:28 16 January 2008 | UPDATED: 11:27 01 July 2010

A UNION official has warned that job cuts in the probation service will put the public at risk. Kent Probation Area (KPA) began a process of axing 40 jobs on Monday by asking staff to take early retirement or voluntary redundancy. The redundancies come

A UNION official has warned that job cuts in the probation service will put the public at risk.

Kent Probation Area (KPA) began a process of axing 40 jobs on Monday by asking staff to take early retirement or voluntary redundancy.

The redundancies come just days after the government announced plans for tagged prisoners to be released early.

Under the new proposals announced in Parliament last Saturday, up to 1,000 prison places could be freed up weekly by the early releases which take in to consideration time spent wearing a tag before trial.

Assistant secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, Harry Fletcher said: "If there is no-one to supervise released criminals then of course there is increased risk to the public. It's absurd."

He feared the service would "go into meltdown" with too few officers to do their jobs properly and that this was "bound to lead to a deterioration in service and more re-offending."

The government is desperately trying to ease the gridlocked prison population but Mr Fletcher said it was not acceptable to transfer pressure to probation officers.

He added: "The prison population is 81,000 while the probation service is looking after 200,000. Both of us are at breaking point.

"But it's not a solution to take [prisoners] off the prison's books and to put them on to ours."

KPA is slashing 40 jobs to make up a £1.2million deficit which works out around £30,000 per head.

Chief officer of the KPA, Alan Dowie, said they were still "working with staff with a view to minimising the impact on services and maximising the protection of the public" but did not say how this would be put in to practice.

In the past week alone the competency of the over-stretched service has been thrown in to question with another murder story hitting the headlines.

Last year London Probation slashed 26 senior management posts when the capital was spilt in to two areas, London South and London North, instead of the previous four sections.

A national survey carried out by Napo found that out of 42 probation services across England and Wales, 32 were "virtually all facing a freeze on vacancies, redundancies and cuts in services."

On Monday, four men from a hostel where ex-offenders are supervised under licence were arrested on suspicion of murdering pensioner Georgina Edmonds.

Mrs Edmonds was found battered to death near Winchester on Friday.

It was the same hostel that serial sex offender Anthony Rice stayed at following his jail release. He went on to stab 40-year-old Naomi Bryant to death in August 2005 while under probationary supervision.

katherine.nelson@archant.co.uk

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