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Justice green paper moots new council responsiblities

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The government has outlined plans for local authorities to run payment-by-results programmes to help reduce crime, and stated its intention to make councils financially responsible for young people placed in custody.

Councils in Greater Manchester and Birmingham will work to develop “local incentive” schemes to prevent reoffending that will allow the commissioning of innovative services to fill gaps identified in current services.

According to Justice green paper Breaking the Cycle: Effective Punishment, Rehabilitation and Sentencing of Offenders, the partnerships that will be created will “be free to target their resources on specific groups of offenders in line with their local priorities and crime patterns”.

Payment would come in the form of a share in the savings made by reduced demand for criminal justice services, and “could be reinvested in further crime-prevention work.

The Greater Manchester project and the London one - which will centre around Lewisham LBC and Croydon LBC but is likely to include more of the capital’s councils - will both launch in April 2011 and run for two years.

Elsewhere in the green paper, ministers float the idea of testing payment by results to “incentivise” local areas to reduce youth offending by making councils “share both the financial risk of young people entering custody, and the financial rewards if fewer young people require a custodial sentence.”

Ministers propose the creation of a “small number of pilots” to work with a consortia of volunteer local authorities to set a target reduction for the use of custody and provide a “reinvestment grant” on top of the standard grant to Youth Offending Teams to help them achieve it.

At the end of the trial period “some or all” of the grant would be recouped if a consortium had failed to meet its targets.

According to the green paper, measures to reduce youth offending would be incorporated into the adult reoffending-reduction proposals.

Frances Done, chair of the soon-to-be abolished Youth Justice Board, said the green paper offered the biggest change in youth justice for a decade.

 “We endorse the approach to exploring new ways of reducing re-offending and the numbers of young people in custody through better opportunities for rehabilitation,” she said.

“We welcome the opportunity for all those involved with an interest in the youth justice system to take part in the consultation process and urge them to give their views. ”

Lord Victor Adebowale, chief executive of health and social care organisation Turning Point, said it was vital that the criminal justice system prevented crime from occurring in the first place. “ Rehabilitation is key to achieving this, and is most effective when carried out using an integrated approach which takes offenders’ whole needs into account,” he said.

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