re:offending-not local services
Arguments for Members
Following the Executive's recent consultation on reducing
re-offending in Scotland, UNISON is concerned that the Executive
seem determined to forge ahead with plans to create a new
single 'correctional' agency merging the Scottish Prison
Service (SPS) with Criminal Justice Social Work (CJSW) services.
This is despite the overwhelming majority of respondents
to the recent consultation exercise being strongly opposed
to its creation. This includes all of Scotland's 32 local
authorities, the Scottish Human Rights Centre, the Association
of Directors of Social Workers and the Parole Board for
UNISONScotland's opposition to a single agency is based
on our belief that the most effective and appropriate method
of managing offenders remains within the current framework
of Scotland's criminal justice system. Whilst improvements
can be made, we believe that the existing structures provide
a framework within which different agencies can work together
to reduce re-offending.
This leaflet is designed for members so that they can tackle
their MSP and outline UNISON's arguments against such a
We suggest that you write to your MSP using the arguments
in this leaflet. Or you use the arguments in this leaflet
to raise at visits to their surgeries. Dates, times and
places of surgeries are usually held in local libraries.
Many MSP's now have local offices which are listed in the
They can all be written to at their local offices or at:
[Their name] MSP,
The Scottish Parliament,
Edinburgh EH99 1SP,
or by e-mail at
The Scottish Parliament website-
- can tell you who your MSPs are.
Why we oppose a single 'correctional'
- If a single-agency is established and CJSW services
removed from local authority control, multi-agency work
will be seriously weakened. A vital feature of the current
system is the ability of CJSW services to work with other
services in the local authority and elsewhere to provide
a comprehensive and targeted range of services for offenders.
CJSW services work within a multi-agency context with
other social work colleagues, including those from children
and families and also addictions. In addition they also
work closely with the voluntary sector and with other
agencies such as housing, health and the police.
- A single agency will not provide greater safety for
the public or effectively reduce rates of re-offending.
Shoehorning CJSW services into a single agency whose dominant
mode of delivery will be based on 'correctional' and 'punitive'
measures, will not help reduce re-offending rates or aid
the rehabilitation prospects for prisoners. It does not
work now and will not do so in the future.
- We believe that a single agency will dilute the social
work task within the criminal justice system. Transferring
CJSW into a 'single agency', where the major emphasis
of the work will be on correctional tasks such as monitoring,
supervision and punishment, will lead inevitably to a
perceived need for less qualified social work staff. In
addition, there remains a strong possibility that qualified
criminal justice social workers will opt to transfer to
other areas of social work leaving the proposed new service
weakened, particularly in the lead-in period.
- The establishment of this new quango would mean removing
vital services from local democratic control. In addition
it would make it more difficult to exploit the close working
relationship between the various local authority services
and between the voluntary sector agencies.
- Existing CJSW services play a crucial role in tackling
attitudes towards offending amongst Scotland's prison
population. Despite resource limitations CJSW services
in Scotland are working. Concerns about sentencing, re-offending
and rehabilitation are not failures of social work. There
are countless examples of how, when supplied with the
appropriate resources, local authority CJSW teams are
successful in addressing re-offending behaviour, making
communities safer and preventing the need for custodial
- Ultimately, a reduction in re-offending rates will only
be brought about by a change in Scotland's sentencing
policy. UNISON Scotland believes that the current sentencing
regime in Scotland is the single most important factor
that must be addressed if rehabilitation of prisoners
is to be effective. We know from evidence-based research
that short-term custodial sentences do not deter individuals
from re-offending, yet in 2002 over 80% of all custodial
sentences in Scotland were for terms of 6 months or less.
This sentencing regime makes no sense and we believe that
the Executive should give proper consideration to implementing
more effective and long-term alternatives to short-term
The Background Arguments
An integrated and centrally co-ordinated single agency
approach to reducing reoffending has been widely rejected
throughout the rest of Europe. Evidence clearly shows that
countries which have adopted this approach have not reduced
re-offending and prison populations have, in many cases,
UNISON Scotland, along with many others, does not believe
that a single agency solution will reduce the high rates
of re-offending in Scotland. There are alternatives to this
proposed radical restructuring of Scotland's criminal justice
system, which we believe will afford greater opportunities
to build offenders capabilities and provide realistic opportunities
for moving away from law-breaking lifestyles.
If the Executive is successful in establishing a single
'correctional' agency this will damage the effectiveness
of our criminal justice system, and the quality of throughcare
and aftercare for offenders.
We believe that rather than forge ahead with major disruption
of the entire criminal justice system the Executive should
consider creating Public Service Networks similar to those
adopted in the Joint Future programme. This way the SPS,
CJSW and other services can be brought together to work
more effectively without the kind of upheaval that a full-scale
merger would involve. Better integration between agencies
providing services to offenders is needed.
We believe a multi-agency partnership approach - a Public
Service Network - would ensure a better focus on shared
Action for Members
the arguments outlined in this leaflet write to your MSPs
outlining your opposition to a single 'correctional' agency.
Raise the issue with your MSPs at their surgeries.
Raise the issue within other organisations or political
parties that you are involved with.
Use your local media, newspapers and radio to argue
against the creation of a single agency and raise awareness
of the issue within your local community.
Make sure you pass copies of all replies you receive
to UNISON - address below.
If you require further assistance please contact Michael
Byers or Dave Watson at UNISON House, 14 West Campbell Street,
GLASGOW G2 6RX. Phone 0845 355 0845. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org