PROBATION Service workers in Barnsley protested outside Barnsley Town Hall after a vast chunk of the service was put up for sale by the government.

Crowds gathered last Thursday to protest about the controversial reforms to privatise the service which deals with the rehabilitation of offenders, contracts were offered up to the private and voluntary sectors, attracting interest from security firms such as G4S and Serco.

The reforms means those sectors will cover the supervision of low and medium-risk offenders on a payment-by-results basis.

Sharon Price, a local member of trade union National Association of Probation Officers, said the service is facing the fight of its life - and union members strongly oppose the plans.

She said: "Although the government has stated that high risk offenders will still be managed by the Probation Service, 80 per cent of serious offences are committed by individuals thought at the time to be low or medium risk of serious harm to the public.

"It's the management of these offenders that's of concern to us as the government is planning on outsourcing this work to private security firms who, quite simply, are not trained to the same standard as qualified probation officers.

"These changes to our profession will put the public at risk."

She questioned how the government can justify companies such as Serco and G4S bidding for the work when they're under investigation for their mismanagement of other government contracts.

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