Before becoming shadow secretary of state for wales, Jo Stevens MP proudly took part in a Napo rally against the privatisation of probation. Two and a half years later, her support for the cause has not waned.
In her very first speech from the dispatch box in parliament, she described the privatisation of the service as “reckless” which she claims drew gasps and groans from the opposite bench.“They know that TR has been a complete dog’s dinner and it’s not as though they weren’t warned in advance,” she told members.
Responses to the NOMS consultation on TR were overwhelmingly negative, but as the shadow Welsh secretary pointed out: “The Tories are well versed in issuing consultations and then completely ignoring the answers.”
Dismantling the service of course created an untold amount of issues. “Handing over this critical service to global corporations with no oversight or control to allow them to profit
from the criminal justice system was always going to produce rather than prevent problems,” Ms Stevens said.
There have been huge numbers of redundancies across the CRCs – 40% in Wales alone. The shadow Welsh secretary also referenced IT systems which were not fit for purpose and said
there were “cases falling through the cracks.”
In the last parliament Labour opposed the privatisation and the shadow justice minister at the time – Sadiq Khan – made clear the Party’s opposition to the plans. “Like you we warned of the risks in artificially fragmenting the service. We know what works best is agencies working together locally and joined up.”
The shadow Welsh secretary said that Labour were also appalled by the way contracts were signed which tied the hands of future governments and guaranteed large profits for private companies.
Transforming Rehabilitation was the handy work of Chris Grayling, a man who Ms Stevens described as having a “slash and burn policy” in every government position he has held.
The baton was passed to Michael Gove briefly before being handed to new justice secretary Liz Truss.
Napo members were audibly shocked when Ms Stevens informed them Ms Truss had told parliament: “Those on shorter sentences now get much more support due to our new probation contracts.”
“I don’t think she even understands what a pre-sentence report is, or that she has a clue what is happening on the ground day in and day out in our probation service,” the shadow Welsh secretary said to members.
“Privatisation has failed and it’s time for the Tories to fess up and admit it. If the MoJ leaves it too late, the service will be decimated beyond repair and 106 years of probation work will be lost for good,” conference were told.
According to Ms Stevens, the MoJ will need to work with and listen to Napo to repair the damage.
Labour will be working with Napo and other justice unions to develop a probation policy which the shadow Welsh secretary says will not be driven by “profit and privatisation”.
Ms Stevens, who was honoured to attend the conference taking place in her constituency finished by saying: “The working conditions of dedicated probation and family court staff will not be made tougher and tougher through continued reckless ideological dismantling of our critical public service,” and added: “Trade unions will not be treated like the enemy and Labour will repeal the Trade Union Act.”