The Welsh government called probation a “national embarrassment” but its staff “heroic” as the Senedd debated the future of probation in Wales this week.
On 23rd October the Welsh Government debated the future of probation in the context of the new proposed model for Wales announced earlier this summer. Napo Cymru, and in particular Su McConnel, have worked tirelessly to keep the Senedd up to date on Napo’s position, campaigns and the view of Napo Cymru. With devolution becoming an increasingly debated topic, and particularly the devolution of justice to the Welsh government this was a well-attended and interesting debate.
Alun Davies, Cabinet Secretary for local government and public services, said that the Welsh government acknowledged that the probation service was in “chaos” around the split and was failing to protect victims. The debate focused on what has gone wrong but also on the importance of the Welsh government being involved from the outset of any future design for the service.
Leanne Wood, former probation officer, former leader of Plaid Cymru and member of the National Assembly said that probation had diminished to the point where offenders have not been monitored and public safety had been reduced with tragic consequences. She cited the murder of Conner Marshall, whose mother Nadine has campaigned alongside Napo about the dangers of TR and the impact of poor quality CRC case management. Leanne agree with Napo Cymru that to shoe horn probation into a market driven model will and has failed.
“Introduction of a profit element into the management of offender’s risk is obscene and should never have been considered in the first place”, she said. She also went on to highlight that staff have been treated appallingly in recent years.
Other Assembly members also raised the impact on staff. Julie Morgan quoted Napo Cymru and their briefings on a demoralised workforce. She called for a need to rebuild staff confidence and trust and pays tribute to officers who have struggled heroically in an impossible regime.
So strong is the Welsh government’s determination to take probation out of the private sector, even UKIP were onside in the debate. With Wales facing a very different model to England in the new round of contracts, Napo Cymru with national support will continue to lobby the Senedd on a unified public probation service. The future of probation in Wales is starting to look promising.
Tania Bassett, National Official