PROBATION staff in Kidderminster have joined a nationwide strike protesting against government plans to privatise 70 per cent of the probation service.

Napo trade union members walked out at noon yesterday and will stay on strike until midnight.

About eight to 10 Kidderminster staff will be outside Bewdley Museum today to highlight the problem to members of the public.

It is only the fifth strike in Napo’s 103-year history and its second in relation to this issue.

Alex Clarke, a probation officer in Kidderminster, said: "I know there's been a lot of issues in Bewdley due to the level of crime and it's potentially going to get worse if offenders are supervised by private companies.

"Private companies have shareholders who are going to be paid by results so people will be making money from crime.

"On the other hand, if you look at the offenders themselves, people that may be committing burglaries or showing anti-social behaviour, they'll be send to private companies, who have no obligation to get results."

Napo general secretary Ian Lawrence said: "The government plans to outsource 70 per cent of the probation service is untried and untested.

" It is a dangerous social experiment that we believe will lead to a reduction in rehabilitation and fragment risk management placing the public at risk.

"These reforms are ideologically driven and being pushed by a political timetable. If the Secretary of State really believes in these reforms then we ask him to pause and to run pilots that can be independently evaluated to evidence they work.

"However, he refuses to do this and is pushing them through ahead of the general election. It will cost the public in terms of both safety and taxpayers’ money."

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