UNISON Scotland's response to the Consultation
on Community Justice Authorities
UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union representing
150,000 members delivering public services in Local Government,
Health, further and higher education, energy (gas and electricity),
water, transport and the voluntary and community sector. We represent
the majority of staff employed in the Criminal Justice Social
Work sector as well as many working for voluntary sector projects
which support offenders and victims of crime.
This paper constitutes UNISON Scotland's response
to the consultation document issued by the Scottish Executive
on the creation of Community Justice Authorities.
UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to comment
on the above Consultation by the Scottish Executive.
UNISON Scotland is happy to welcome the proposals
contained in the consultation on the creation of Community Justice
In its response to the consultation exercise launched
in March 2004, Reduce, Rehabilitate, Reform - a Consultation
on Reducing Reoffending in Scotland UNISON Scotland strongly
opposed the Scottish Executive's proposals to create a single
agency to manage custodial and non-custodial sentences. Instead,
we suggested that a multi-agency partnership approach was required
which should be achieved by adopting a Public Service Network.
We were pleased to note that in the document published
in December 2004, Supporting Safer, Stronger Communities -
Scotland's Criminal Justice Plan, and in the subsequent
Management of Offenders, etc. (Scotland) Bill, the proposals for
a single correction agency had been withdrawn. We welcome the
proposals for the Scottish Prison Service and local authorities
to work together to reduce reoffending and to form effective local
area partnerships to deliver integrated services for offenders
in prison and the community. We also support proposals to bring
groups of local councils together in the new Community Justice
UNISON Scotland notes that although there will be
co-ordination and joint planning between local authorities, each
local authority will continue to have the responsibility for delivering
services in its local area. We welcome this structure which will
allow closer working but will retain decentralisation. We believe
the new authorities should provide a strategic lead to the services
they provide, whilst retaining an organisational looseness in
We recall that in the report following the O'Brien
Enquiry into the death of Caleb Ness there was strong recommendation
in favour of a closer working relationship between children and
family social workers and criminal justice social workers and
we wish to see this in practice.
We have concerns that the proposals could cause
confusion amongst service users and require assurances that service
users and staff will be properly advised and enabled to access
any services they require. This issue should be handled sensitively
We would not support any proposals that we believed
were purely being introduced to provide efficiency gains, i.e.
to cut costs.
UNISON Scotland's views on specific questions are
set out below:
Section 1. Function and Structure
Q. In your view, which option would form the
better basis for the CJA areas?
UNISON Scotland believes that the proposals set
out in Option 1 would lead to very large entities, made up of
an unwieldy number of councils and we therefore support Option
2, based mainly on the 6 current Sheriffdoms.
Q. What do you consider would be necessary
to recognise the particular circumstances faced by the
UNISON Scotland wishes to see specific proposals
from the Executive, on which we will comment, following further
consultation with the Islands' Authorities.
Section 2. Constitution
Q. It is proposed that each authority
should be represented by one member whose vote would be weighted
in relation to the population of the authority on a scale
of 1-4. Do you agree with these proposals.
Given the nature of the work that the CJAs
are expected to fulfil, we believe that a consensus approach should
prevail on most occasions. These should not be the place for combative
relationships. However, as the Authorities have the responsibility
for the allocation of resources, we accept that some form of pro-rata
system must be in place. We are not in favour of weighted votes
but would prefer seats to be allocated on a pro-rata basis and
then a system of one person, one vote to be established.
Q. Do you agree that on occasions when
a vote is needed to reach a decision, that this ordinarily
be decided by a simple majority?
If a system is established as outlined in
our previous answer is established, we have no difficulty with
a simple majority vote.
Q. You are invited to comment on any
practical issues you think may need to be addressed in relation
to the appointment of chief officers?
UNISON seeks assurances that discussions
will take place on the appropriate grade for Chief Executives,
and the qualifications required for the post. We would also wish
to see adequate training afforded to the Chief Executive and any
other staff that are appointed to enable them to properly fulfil
We believe there must be clarification of
the role of Chief Social Work Officers with particular reference
to probation orders.
UNISON Scotland seeks assurances that the
same format for distribution of money as is currently available
from the Scottish Executive to Local Authorities will be available
for disbursement by CJAs. As stated above, we would be concerned
if the proposals were purely aimed at achieving efficiency gains.
Section 3. Partner Organisations
Q. Do you agree the list of partner bodies?
We accept the initial list of partner bodies.
We especially believe that the inclusion of local health services
is essential, particularly psychiatric services and drugs projects.
Q. Which other agencies do you think
should be identified as partner organisations?
We wish to see the specific inclusion of
housing services which can be provided by local authorities and
the voluntary sector. We see housing as having a very big role
to play in the management of offenders. Relevant housing associations
should be included in the list of voluntary groups.