A WORTHING probation officer says she fears for the safety of the public if Government plans to out source 70 per cent of probation services go ahead.
Karen Hill of east Worthing was one of more than 200 staff from Surrey and Sussex Probation Trust joined members of the National Association of Probation Officers (NAPO) to go on strike for 24 hours this week.
There was a picket line of eight people outside Worthing Magistrates Court on Tuesday followed by a rally in Brighton, where a number of speakers made addresses.
Justice Secretary Christopher Grayling wants to abolish probation trusts in England and Wales and transfer the supervision of 225,000 low- and medium-risk offenders to “community rehabilitation companies” on a payment-by-results basis by next October.
A much smaller national probation service will manage 31,000 high-risk offenders and public protection cases.
Ms Hill has worked for Worthing Probation service since 2007.
She said: “People are quite shocked that this is going ahead as a lot of people are not aware of the proposed changes.
“They are very concerned about the fact that big companies such as G4S and Serco are being allowed to bid for the contract and a lot of our clients are also concerned about the consistency of a regular probation officer when they are disclosing very personal information about themselves.”
Ms Hill said the proposals were based on re-offending rates, an area that is not managed by the Probation Service.
“This is about the risk to the public that is going to happen as we are going to be sold off to the lowest bidder, and we will not be allowed as a service to bid for the work that is going out to the private sector,” she said.
“What is going to happen about how these people are managed? It is very dangerous.”
NAPO chairman Mike Rayfield said: “This is the fourth time in our 104 year history that the probation service has taken industrial action.
“Mr Grayling is not listening to probation staff and is he pressing ahead with plans that are untried, untested and in our view unnecessary.”