03/07/2014 10:00 BST | Updated 03/07/2014 10:59 BST

Probation Service Accused Of Randomly Outsourcing Jobs By 'Picking Names Out Of A Hat'

Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
File photo dated 29/04/13 of Justice Secretary Chris Grayling as TV licence dodgers could escape criminal charges under plans being examined by Government to ease the pressure on courts by making non-payment a civil offence.

Justice secretary Chris Grayling has been accused of ignoring warnings that probation officers have been forced out of the public sector Probation Service and into the private sector entirely at random.

The government has outsourced large sections of the service to companies such as G4S. Labour MP Toby Perkins has complained that the decision as to which employees have to now work for the private companies is apparently being decided by names literally being "drawn out of a hat".

Grayling has dismissed the allegation as "absolute nonsense". However a letter chain between South Yorkshire Probation Trust and one probation officer seen by The Huffington Post UK reveals staff are being told the opposite.

"There was a random selection process and employee numbers were used to select between NPS and CRC. The details of this process were shared with the Trades Union," the trust told one probation worker who questioned why their job had been privatised.

"Employee numbers were drawn out of a hat by a panel of 3 including an ACO, a board member and an HR representative. No names were used in this process and this gave an order or what was pulled out 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc. The ranking was subsequently used to fill in the NPS posts unto establishment."

On Tuesday Grayling told the Commons "names were not drawn from a hat" and that "there was a carefully constructed process of selection".

Perkins subsequently wrote to Grayling to notify him that he intended to raise a point of order in the Commons to ask him to correct the record.

However Grayling replied to Perkins: "You can raise it all you like, selection was not done by drawing names from a hat. It was based on what the balance of work staff had been doing was."

Perkins said today: "Probation officers do an incredibly difficult and important job to reduce reoffending rates and rehabilitate offenders. There are already grave concerns about the Tory-led government’s plans to hollow out the service and transfer staff to six private companies.

"So it was shocking to hear that many staff have been selected for transfer by having their names pulled out of a hat. It’s a shambolic conclusion to a worrying process."

Labour's shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said it was an "absolute disgrace and an insult to professional probation staff".

"Chris Grayling flatly denied in the House of Commons this week that staff were allocated by lottery while the probation service was being carved up. But there’s growing evidence that’s precisely what did happen plumbing new depths, even for this Government," he said.

"Treating the future of dedicated and experienced probation staff as if they’re no more than balls in a game of bingo is an insult to their professionalism and the importance of their work in keeping our communities safe. There is now even more reason to worry that the privatisation of probation is turning into one big disaster. And this is on top of the problems since June 1st with IT failures, staff being locked out of offices, case files piling up and offenders missing appointments through no fault of their own.”