(Title Image: UK Government)
Killing the Probation Contract?
At Ministerial Questions, David Rees AM (Lab, Aberavon) demanded that, in light of the “disastrous” privatisation of the probation service and damning reports which suggest domestic violence victims have been put at risk, the contracts should “be killed now” and the responsibilities transferred to Wales.
Local Government & Public Services Secretary, Alun Davies (Lab, Blaenau Gwent), broadly agreed and a debate on the future of the probation service will be held on October 23rd.
Former probation officer, Leanne Wood AM (Plaid, Rhondda), was unequivocal:
“The Tories’ ideological privatisation of the probation service has been an unmitigated, if not predictable, disaster. It’s left existing probation staff feeling demoralised, and it’s also increased the danger posed to the public. The Tories should be full of regret and shame for wrecking what was an effective public service.”
– Leanne Wood AM
Following the recommendations of probation officer’s trade union, Leanne called for the establishment of a locally-accountable probation commissioning body made up of government representatives and Police & Crime Commissioners. The Cabinet Secretary was willing to discuss it, but was looking to unify the probation, “as a single, publicly accountable service”.
Shadow Communities Secretary, Mark Isherwood AM (Con, North Wales), asked for an update on the Children & Communities Grant, which will roll several vulnerable persons grant schemes into two flexible grant schemes – one housing-related, one for non-housing related. He wanted to know if they would be ring-fenced or added to local authorities’ annual grant?
“I hope that the decision we have announced today—in terms of a two-grant model that we will maintain for the rest of the (Fifth) Assembly—is one that will meet the needs of recipients but will also allow local authorities and others to deliver the sort of integration that they require. But, in direct answer to your question, yes, we will ensure that those grants do have their own integrity.”
– Local Government & Public Services Secretary, Alun Davies
Mark also raised concerns that disabled people aren’t being properly consulted on the delivery of support services as set out in the Social Services & Wellbeing Act 2014.
Ghost of Grenfell
Bethan Sayed AM (Plaid, South Wales West) asked how confident the Welsh Government were that they could avoid a Grenfell tower-style disaster? She warned that in evidence to the Communities Committee, AMs heard concerns about lax building practices (in relation to fire doors) and a lack of enforcement.
Bethan also believes leaseholders on low incomes could find themselves out of pocket in covering safety upgrades if the Welsh Government don’t extend their support to social housing tenants to them as well.
Housing & Regeneration Minister, Rebecca Evans (Lab, Gower) said the Welsh Government has a “relationship” with all high-rise towers and were ensuring residents were being provided with proper advice.
She rejected the idea of leaseholders footing any bills:
“Welsh Government fundamentally disagrees with your assertion that it should be the leaseholders who pay for this. Welsh Government is clear, and has been clear throughout, that, actually, it’s the building developers who should be responsible for the remediation work.”
– Housing & Regeneration Minister, Rebecca Evans