PROBATION service jobs could be lost in Dorset, a union has warned.

The National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) has said that as many as 40 per cent of probation jobs in Dorset, Devon and Cornwall could be cut by contractor Working Links.

If the cuts go ahead, this could amount to as many as 117 job losses across the three counties.

Tania Bassett, of Napo, said: "Across the whole of their area, Working Links is making between 30 and 40 per cent cuts.

"Our members are devastated as they have had 18 months of turmoil during the privatisation process.

"It has a big impact on people who have dedicated their lives to public services.

"We are concerned that the more experienced staff will leave, leaving behind the less experienced staff with more to do."

During the partial privatisation of the probation service in 2015, the management of low to medium risk offenders was outsourced to 21 community rehabilitation companies (CRC) across the UK Working Links also operates probation services in Wales and in the Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset and Wiltshire region.

A spokesman for Working Links said that "there will be some job losses", but that the company was "doing [its] best" to avoid compulsory redundancies.

He added: "Since taking on the community rehabilitation company, we have been open and transparent about the need to provide value for money services.

"We are consulting with the unions and our people on our proposed new way of working across the organisation.

"This includes consulting on proposals on changes to our estates strategy, including areas where we could co-locate services, creating a more cost effective information technology solution, and improving our processes to deliver efficiencies.

"Our front line delivery will not be negatively impacted by our proposed changes.

"At all times we will ensure we deliver a safe service."

Tania added: "We will represent our members in order to mitigate redundancies.

"What we would like to see is these companies working closely with Napo to create good operating models to develop a system that is safe for the communities."

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "Community rehabilitation companies are contractually required to maintain a professional and appropriately skilled workforce to deliver the services set out in their contracts.

"CRC contracts are designed to make sure providers deliver services which reduce reoffending, protect the public and provide value for money to the taxpayer.

"Public protection is our priority and we continue to work closely with probation providers to maintain appropriate staffing levels and to rehabilitate offenders effectively."