A private company which manages thousands of offenders in England and Wales after they are released from prison has collapsed into administration.
Working Links, a company that owns three community rehabilitation businesses which deliver probation services in Wales, Avon and Somerset and Cornwall, went bust on Thursday night.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said they had been aware of the company’s financial situation since October, and said it had put in place contingency plans to ensure “offenders will be supervised and the public will be protected”.
The union representing probation officers in the UK has reacted with anger to the news.
Ian Lawrence, general secretary of Napo, said: “This is exactly what we warned the government about from day one of this disastrous privatisation programme that has seen an award-winning service fall into total chaos in just four years.”
Chris Grayling was responsible for privatising the care of low-to-medium risk offenders four years ago as part of his reforms when he was minister for justice.
The MoJ said Working Links services would be handed over to Seetec, who manage community rehabilitation centres in Kent, Surrey and Sussex for the time being.
They also said they would bring forward plans to bring probation services in Wales back under government control.
Seetec confirmed they would transfer all of Working Links staff to their books.
The company’s executive director, Suki Binning, said: “It has been a challenging and uncertain period for probation teams in these regions, during which they have worked tirelessly to support the people they manage and protect the public.”
Lawrence slammed the government’s handling of the situation, adding: “Napo has continually pleaded with ministers to terminate the contracts between the MoJ and Working Links following highly critical reports from HM Inspectorate of Probation and a litany of high profile Serious Further Offences including a number of murders.”
Richard Burgon MP, Labour’s shadow justice secretary said Labour was fully committed to restoring the probation service to public ownership.
“Our probation system is clearly broken. This is yet another public service severely damaged by Chris Grayling and the Conservatives’ obsession with privatisation.
“We need a probation system that prioritises keeping the public safe rather than boosting the profits of private companies.”