Probation hostel cuts risk public safety, says union

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary, Napo
Image caption Harry Fletcher said probation hostels were a "vital resource" for public protection

Any plan to cut spending on probation hostels will "compromise public safety and increase the risk of re-offending", the probation union Napo has said.

It says more than four out of five offenders in such hostels, including murderers and sex offenders, pose a high or very high public risk.

Cuts of 15% and new privatisation plans would be damaging, said assistant general secretary Harry Fletcher.

Ministers said no final decisions had been made on the privatisation plans.

A Ministry of Justice statement added: "There is no evidence to suggest that savings made to the Probation Service will compromise public protection".

Napo surveyed 23 of the 101 hostels - which, along with bail hostels, are also known as "approved premises" - in England and Wales last month.

Almost 90% of the offenders were subject to multi-agency public protection arrangements (Mappa) and at least 19 offenders were regularly monitored by police, the union's research suggested.

Of the 455 men included in the study, 374 were deemed to pose a high or very high risk and 399 were being monitored by Mappa.

This included 183 sex offenders, 216 men convicted of violent offences, and four other dangerous offenders.

A further 24 were convicted of arson, terrorist offences or drug dealing, 18 were persistent prolific offenders and 10 were on bail.

"Sex offenders and those convicted of violence and terrorism must be supervised at the highest level possible," said Mr Fletcher.

"It is of deep concern therefore that the government is cutting probation hostels' budgets and considering privatisation."

'Rigorous standards'

The budget cuts, over four years, and proposals to bring in a "profit motive" with private providers would "undermine supervision and compromise the relationship between the police, probation and other statutory agencies", he said.

He said probation hostels were a "vital resource" for public protection and it was far better for offenders to be in hostels than dispersed in the community.

Mr Fletcher added that the profile of residents in hostels had changed dramatically over the last 15 years as it has "moved away from being those on bail to those released from custody following either determinate or life sentences".

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said the purpose of "approved premises" had long been to supervise high risk offenders in the community, and that a number were are already run effectively by independent organisations.

"All providers must meet the same rigorous standards.

"Approved premises are designed specifically to protect the public and this will remain paramount in the future. Offenders must follow a structured regime, which includes an overnight curfew."

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