Working towards safer futures for our neighbourhoods and communities
18 December 2013
The North East has approximately 4350 prisoners in custody and the region also has one of the highest reoffending rates in the country. Offenders are more likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds and often have varied and multiple social problems, including; lack of employment, housing needs, alcohol and drug misuse, lack of qualifications, family relationship problems and mental health issues. All of these factors are also associated with an increased likelihood of reoffending on release from custody.
Local authorities have an important role to play, alongside the criminal justice sector, in tackling crime and the causes of crime and in reducing reoffending and the harm it causes to our communities. Local authorities host Community Safety Partnerships as well as providing and commissioning local services such as housing, benefits, public health and social care, including family support, as well as playing a significant part in economic development and providing jobs and training opportunities.
The Reducing Reoffending in the North East project was commissioned jointly by ANEC and NOMS (National Offender Management Service) North East to research:
- what initiatives and services are currently in place to support offenders in custody and in the community to reduce reoffending;
- what gaps in services and opportunities for better joined-up working exist between local authorities and prisons;
- what good practice exists within the region and nationally which could inform improvements to local service delivery.
The findings of this exercise formed the basis of a report - “Reducing Reoffending in the North East: Improving joint working between prisons and local authorities” (read the full report here) which set out 43 recommendations for local authorities, prisons and collaborative working. The report was approved by ANEC Leaders and Elected Mayors group and by NOMS NE Regional Office in July 2013. The project is now in its second phase and the project team are engaging with partners to disseminate the report and support colleagues as they seek to implement the recommendations within their own local area.
The project is running at a time when all public sector organisations are affected by spending cuts. Local authorities and their partners are faced with difficult decisions about where to target resources for maximum impact. The criminal justice system is also going through a period of rapid change, with services facing reduced resources and more and more service providers coming into the arena bringing the potential for duplication and fragmentation of services.
So it is imperative that all organisations involved in providing services for offenders, and tackling the causes of reoffending, work together to maximise resources, learning and skills and share best practice. In that way we can collaborate across agencies and across local authority boundaries to work towards providing safer futures for our local communities.