Readers will be aware that I've not been averse to having a pop at probation chiefs, basically for just rolling over and having their tummies tickled by their MoJ/NOMS masters down there in London. Ok, we know they recently 'dissed' Chris Grayling the Justice Secretary with a display of churlish silence, but credit where credit is due, a bit of backbone has at last been displayed in this comment piece by Sarah Billiald in Monday's Guardian. It's the closest we've seen yet to fighting talk, and therefore worth quoting in full I think:-
"In the Queen's speech last week, the government announced an ambitious set of proposals for the rehabilitation of offenders. The following day, it announced the dismantling of the very bodies who have the experience, professionalism and track record of delivering this work: probation trusts.
"Regular readers may recall that G4S won a government contract last year to house asylum seekers in Yorkshire. I have followed this story closely. I am an activist and researcher and I work alongside asylum seeker tenants in Yorkshire and the North East. Over the months together we have revealed how companies to whom G4S subcontracts the work have repeatedly failed to provide housing fit for human habitation, how their staff have been accused of harassing vulnerable tenants.
G4S had no experience of housing management when it was given a slice of the national asylum housing £620m contracts in June 2012. The private security company had of course a stake in other parts of the ‘asylum market’ with a rocky human rights record in managing immigration detention centres and deportation escort services. Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan father of five, died after being "restrained" by G4S escort staff during an attempt to deport him in 2010.
The Home Office, with its 2012 privatised asylum housing contracts, has produced cut price contracts for slum housing based on a "new delivery model" which is hopelessly inefficient. The model is based on three or (as in the Leeds case) four tiers of landlords, each one slicing off a share of the profits. In Leeds and West Yorkshire, G4S is in overall charge, with actual housing provision subcontracted to Cascade Housing.
A few of Cascade's 700 West Yorkshire asylum housing properties are owned directly by the company. Most are subcontracted from very small private landlords. In Angela’s case Cascade used a lettings agency to rent the property from a small landlord. This added yet another layer of complication and cost and stretched even further the distance between Angela and the state which owes her a duty of care.
Within this ‘flexible’ delivery model the real losers are asylum seekers and their families. G4S and its subcontractors like Cascade have simply failed to find decent properties for asylum seekers. G4S’s own figures released in February suggest that in Yorkshire up to 300 asylum seekers have been placed in ‘no choice’ housing which is unfit, and breaches their contract with the Home Office.
The G4S asylum housing contracts in Yorkshire and the North East have descended into chaos and farce. The real losers are vulnerable asylum seekers like Angela, harassed and abused by housing companies, and constantly uprooted and moved by the Home Office and G4S.
The other losers are of course taxpayers who provide public funds for G4S to wreck the everyday lives of mothers like Angela. The Parliamentary Home Affairs committee inquiry into asylum support is due to hear evidence on the G4S asylum housing contracts in the near future. Having observed this unfolding disaster, and having worked with others to try to protect vulnerable people from its harmful effects, I urge the Committee to recommend that the G4S asylum housing contracts (and the Serco and Clearel contracts in other areas) should be cancelled and transferred to not-for-profit providers in the housing association and voluntary housing sectors."
My blog doesn't have to be 'balanced', but in fairness to G4S lets remind ourselves of what they said last week in response to hearing that a lot more MoJ contracts were in the offing:-
"A G4S spokesman said the company was well placed to deliver the kind of innovations that the government was looking at. He claimed its long history of working with offenders in partnership with the public and voluntary sectors meant G4S had developed substantial expertise in the area."
That should be ok then, but just in case, I'd sign the No10 petition here I think.