It is rumoured that Army veterans are to be put in charge of violent criminals serving community service sentences.
The move follows hundreds of reports of staff being attacked or threatened by gangs of offenders doing unpaid work as part of the 'soft touch' sentences.
The Government is planning to privatise the system which has been run by the probation service for 34 years and they intend to recruit Afghanistan and Gulf War veterans to form the centre of a new get-tough policy. Civil servants believe they can save up to £20m a year by offering retired sergeant majors and other con-commissioned officers the minimum wages of just below £6 an hour, because they are already receiving Army pensions.
Three companies, Serco, Kalyx and a consortium involving the MITIE group, have already been approved by the Ministry of Justice to tender for contracts to run the service.
Last night Harry Fletcher, the assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, said: “Community service, or unpaid work as it is now called, has been successfully run by the probation service for 34 years. Privatising to save costs, using former soldiers on minimum wages, is not the answer. It would be exploitative.“Reports of abuse and threats are now occurring every working day. It is of great concern that there have now been shootings. There are clear implications for the health and safety of staff, offenders and the public.”
Why won't it work? Supervising community service workers is no easy task. Army veterans would be an ideal choice for the job and I have no problem with the service being privatised. But to offer them £6 an hour because they receive an Army pension? How grossly insulting. The Army pension is said to be 'generous' but what people forget is many military personnel work years for salaries well below those they would receive in civvy street. They do this in the knowledge that their pension will give them an adequate cushion once they leave the service. To offer them the same wage as a 16-year-old with no qualifications is a colossal error.
Some may decide to take the job, but the majority of retired sergeant-majors and non-commissioned veterans will already have work to supplement their pension and I'd bet a pound to a penny none of them are paid £6 an hour.
If the government wants this to work then offer a decent wage for the skills that these veterans have acquired over many years. They deserve nothing less.