Central London’s New Initiative to Stop Reoffending

News item posted: 17 March 2017

A new pilot project to keep adults out of prison and cut the financial and social costs of reoffending has been launched.

The aim of Starting Over is to target offenders who are sentenced to short-term custodial sentences of 12 months or less who would otherwise be released from prison without support and be more likely to reoffend, especially in the first two weeks after their release - often referred to as the 'cold turkey period'.

In the Tri-borough areas of Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea, it is envisaged that the project could help save £25m over five years through savings and economic benefits.

The project is being led by Westminster City Council, Hammersmith & Fulham Council, and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea in partnership with Turning Point, Catch22 along with St Giles Trust, Only Connect, London Probation Trust, and HMP Wormwood Scrubs and HMP Wandsworth Community Chaplaincies. This combination of public and VCSE sector skills and experience is a blueprint for the future of dealing with offenders.

Funding for the service totals £2.7m over the next two years, with the money coming from the local authority public health departments and additional funding from the Mayor's Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC), who have signed up for four years on the basis that results are delivered in the pilot stage.

If successful, the model could be used nationwide to tackle reoffending, a problem that costs the UK £11bn a year. The pilot - part of the community budgets approach - will be watched closely by the Government, which is planning to roll out supervision to short-sentenced prisoners from autumn 2014.

The new service will consist of two elements:

The first is an initial assessment in police station custody to provide early intervention and an assessment of needs and initial screening for offenders with learning disabilities and mental health issues and to make referrals to substance misuse and other services - so they can be given tailored help that meets their needs and stop them reoffending.

The second, and most significantly funded element, is the provision of dedicated key workers to work directly with prisoners sentenced to under 12 months from prison to community, drawing up a package of care needs, including housing, assistance in finding work, providing support every step of the way. The partner organisations will play a vital role in drawing in a number of important community assets into the service such as mentors and social networks which will support the young person to turn away from crime.

Cllr Philippa Roe, leader of Westminster City Council, said: "Reoffending costs the UK £11bn a year, which is a substantial amount of money. We hope this pilot project will deliver potential savings in central London of up to £25m over five years and produce a blueprint for other areas of the country to follow. But more importantly, this is about turning lives around and putting a halt to a revolving prison turnstile that clearly isn't working."

Cllr Nicholas Paget-Brown, Leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, said: "This is a real opportunity for the three boroughs to make a significant impact to the problems of reoffending by those imprisoned for less than a year. "This is a group that has been overlooked until now. By working with Catch22 and Turning Point we will offer access to education and training and help those just released to settle back into the community and address their behavior and attitudes."

Cllr Greg Smith, Hammersmith & Fulham council deputy leader, said: "By establishing a Tri-borough custody referral team we will be able to screen offenders when they are arrested and take early action to tackle issues, such as alcohol and drug abuse, which may be contributing to a life of crime. By tackling these problems early and head-on we expect to reduce reoffending by 10 per cent."

Selina Douglas, Managing Director for Turning Point's Substance Misuse and Offending said: "Tackling reoffending is a major issue. There's a revolving door problem where people are ending back in prison time and again. Until now they've not had enough help to prevent them getting sucked back into crime. That's why Turning Point is delighted to work in a unique partnership, blending the expertise of the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector with the London Probation Trust to tackle reoffending rates."

Colin Murphy, Director of Justice, Catch22, said: "Catch22 welcomes this opportunity to collaborate with Turning Point and other established partners in the delivery of innovative services to reduce adult reoffending in the London Tri-Borough area. Catch22 is committed to building and maintaining alliances with partners from across the voluntary, private and public sectors, to provide the highest quality and most efficient services. "The service will deliver essential holistic support to those most at risk of reoffending, before and after their release from custody. We are confident that the combined experience and expertise of all the partners will ensure a significant long term impact on levels of reoffending in the Tri-Borough area, as well as improving the individual outcomes for those offenders who need this support."

The Government has made rehabilitation a priority for this Parliament. However reoffending remains high:

- 46.9% of prisoners leaving custody reoffend within a year, down just 2.5% since 2000 on average committing 4.2 offences each.

- Among juvenile offenders, 72.3% of young offenders reoffend within a year of leaving prison, with overall juvenile reoffending up 2.4% since 2000.

- Last year alone 6,000 crimes were committed by people who had broken the law previously

 - The case for not just improving, but radically transforming, the way we organise rehabilitation in England and Wales has never been clearer

Case Worker - Brendan Short (photo available on request)

Brendan Short is a manager at the Starting Over service. Brendan has worked in the substance misuse field for over 10 years gaining experience in open access services, prescribing and criminal justice. He shares his experience and view of the benefits the new service will bring;

"My work in integrated substance misuse services and within criminal justice provision has demonstrated the need for additional support to be given to individuals when leaving prison or police custody, identifying those affected by substance misuse, mental health issues or learning disabilities and those with housing, and employment and training needs. We are able to help individuals access support through partners including those who help with homelessness, access to rehabilitation, prescribing and counselling."

Brendan says the biggest change about the service operating out of HMP Wandsworth and HMP Wormwood Scrubs, is that it isn't just limited to drug and alcohol users. "Any individual serving a short term sentence (SSP) can be supported to address issues that are contributing to their offending. Our staff will be to assess an individual within 72 hours of them entering into custody and develop a care plan with them for when they are released. The care plan will include what support is being provided either directly or through partners including accommodation provision and access to employment or training opportunities. The individual will be met at the prison gate when they are released by a team member and supported into the help or provision they need.

"A significant positive about this new service is the level of support for a wide range of clients who may not have previously had access to it. This can only lead to more positive outcomes for a vulnerable people with a broad range of complex needs, coming out of prison or police custody.

Ends

Notes to editors:

The full list of partners involved in the project are, London Probation Trust, St Giles Trust, Only Connect, HMP Wormwood Scrubs and HMP Wandsworth Community Chaplaincies, as well Turning Point and Catch22.

About Turning Point

• Turning Point is a social enterprise providing health and social care services for people with complex needs, including those affected by drug and alcohol misuse, mental health problems or those with a learning disability. For more information, please visit www.turning-point.co.uk

About Catch22

• Catch22 is forward looking social business with over 200 years' experience providing services that help people in tough situations to turn their lives around.

• Catch22 programmes help those we work with to steer clear of crime or substance misuse, do the best they can in school or college and develop skills for work, live independently on leaving care or custody, gain new skills and confidence as parents, and play a full part in their community.

• In 2011/12 we worked directly with 34,000 young people, families and adult offenders in 150 localities, supporting a further 49,000 young people through national partnership programmes.

• The people we work with may have had tough upbringings, few opportunities, or lived in difficult neighbourhoods.

• For more information, please visit http://www.catch-22.org.uk/