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COUNCILS COULD BUILD ON YOUTH SUCCESS TO TACKLE ADULT RE-OFFENDING

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Building on their success in dealing with young offenders through the Youth Offending Team (YOT) scheme, councils a...
Building on their success in dealing with young offenders through the Youth Offending Team (YOT) scheme, councils are ideally placed to step in and tackle the rising numbers of adult re-offenders that currently cost the criminal justice system over£11bn every year. This is one of the conclusions of a report published today by the Local Government Association.

Many of the services that local councils provide such as housing, education and social services have been shown to make a significant contribution to the reduction of re-offending.

The proposals in the Management of Offenders and Sentencing Bill, awaiting its second reading in the House of Lords, have recognised the importance of providing ex-offenders with an integrated service, but have failed to recognise the key part that local government plays in the process.

Bryony Rudkin, chair of the LGA's safer communities board, said: 'Our message is simple - schemes such at YOTs, where councils have been central, have successfully put young offenders back on the straight and narrow. With a prison population of over 70,000, it is time to see how we can build on the success of such schemes and apply them to adult offenders.

'During their time in prison, a significant proportion of inmates lose their house, their job and contact with their family, whilst many face associated financial problems. We must give people the support they need to create a stable social and financial environment and they are less likely to re-offend.

'As local authorities already provide or are involved in the provision of many services that affect re-offending, they are perfectly placed, if adequately resourced, to use their knowledge, experience and expertise to co-ordinate a multi-agency approach to the issue.'

Ms Rudkin adds: 'We are disappointed that the crucial leadership role of local authorities in their communities and the potential contribution councils can make to reducing re-offending appears to have been largely ignored in the development of the Government's proposals for the National Offenders Management Scheme (NOMS). We will continue to lobby the government on this point as the Management of Offenders and Sentencing Bill passes through parliament.

'We must break the vicious circle of re-offending that blights communities and law-abiding citizens and costs the taxpayer billions every year.'

THE PURSUIT OF JUSTICE : JEREMY BEECHAM'S LECTURE TO NEWCASTLE LAW SOCIETY, 3 FEBRUARY 2005

NOTES

1. `Going straight - reducing re-offending in local communities' is available here.

2. Alongside that the LGA has published a research report, 'Reducing re-offending: a survey of local authorities' work with the correctional services'. This survey, commissioned by the LGA was carried out by BMRB International, to investigate councils' involvement in work to reduce re-offending and assess working relationships between them and Criminal Justice System (CJS) agencies. It was found that:

'Policies to tackle re-offending are widespread across local government, featuring in local area strategies for 81 per cent of responding councils, most commonly as part of a Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership (CDRP) strategy (67 per cent of authorities).

'One in three (36 per cent) of authorities report being involved in the implementation of community sentences. Involvement in restorative justice schemes was reported by 55 per cent of authorities, although for top-tier authorities alone this figure is 81 per cent.

'Community safety is not the only council function to have contact with CJS agencies, and others include housing (in 82 per cent of councils), children's services (72 per cent) and education (61 per cent).

'Local authorities provide a range of services to offenders and ex-offenders to reduce re-offending, such as housing advice (provided by 69 per cent of councils), benefits advice (55 per cent) and drugs treatment/advice (43 per cent).

'Communication between councils and CJS agencies regarding the release of offenders could be improved, with around three in ten authorities saying they were never notified by the prison or probation service about the release of offenders.

'Only 29 per cent of authorities felt that bringing the prison and probation services together at a national or regional level, as proposed for NOMS, was the most effective way to tackle re-offending. Sixty per cent felt re-offending would be best tackled by bringing the prison and probation services together at either a local or sub-regional level.

The summary of the research report can be downloaded from the LGA website at www.lga.gov.uk

3. Jeremy Beecham, vice-chairman of the LGA is making a speech on this issue to the Newcastle Law Society today. It is available here on LGCnet.

4. An Audit Commission study of 2004 said: 'YOTS are a good example of a flexible, multi-disciplinary approach to service delivery from which other public sector partnerships could learn' and 'The 155 YOTS are critically placed between criminal justice, health and local government services to co-ordinate and deliver services to young offenders and the courts.'

5. Amongst the range of proposals in the bill is the establishment of the National Offender Management Service, and the establishment of a Commissioner for prisons and offender management. The bill builds on Lord Carter's review of correctional services and sentencing reforms introduced by the Criminal Justice Act (2003).

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