South Yorkshire probation firm fails audit

A PRIVATE company chosen to run probation services and manage violent offenders in South Yorkshire has failed an audit.

Sodexo, a French catering company, was chosen to run South Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) in December 2014.

But within six months of taking over, it had failed an audit by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) who found that offenders were “not being properly monitored” and there were “systematic failures” with the management of offenders.

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John Healey, MP for Wentworth and Dearne, called for the company to be stripped of its contract, branding the failings “a scandal and a disgrace”.

He added: “Conservative ministers were determined to press ahead with privatisation and, within just a few months, there’s proof it’s putting the public at risk.

“Before this contract Sodexo had no experience in dealing with offenders \_ they served food in our schools. 

“They’re just not up to the job and should be stripped of the contract.”

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Mr Healey (pictured) said he had asked justice secretary Michael Gove for a copy of the MoJ audit and an explanation from the government.

He also said he had received a number of reports from probation officers in South Yorkshire about high workloads, low morale, failed promises, IT problems and other issues.

Mr Healey said: “There are extremely worrying findings in this audit, but exactly the sort of problems I and other MPs predicted and feared before the government pushed through its reckless and ideological reorganisation.

“Company managers seem to be paying little care or attention to the service, offenders and safety of the public, and this is why I have, and will continue to, challenge the government over the privatisation of a perfectly good service.

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“Ministers were determined to press on with privatising probation, despite serious concerns about the risk to public safety.

“There was no justification or evidence it would make the probation service better, the public safer or reduce re-offending.”

A spokesman for Sodexo Justice Services said: “We are disappointed with the results of the recent audit at South Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company.

“We take this very seriously and have implemented an action plan to address the concerns raised.”

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A Ministry of Justice spokesman said it was currently reviewing the CRC’s corrective action plan and that if it was found to not be meeting the requirements of the plan, the MoJ had the right to take further action.

He said: “We hold providers rigorously to account for their performance and take action wherever they are falling short.

“Following an audit by the Ministry of Justice, South Yorkshire CRC has now developed an improvement plan. We will continue to monitor the CRC’s performance closely.

“Our probation reforms are designed to make sure almost all offenders receive support on release, including, for the first time, those sentenced to less than 12 months.”