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RevitaliseCut re:offending-not local services

Arguments for Members

Arguments for members

Why we oppose a single 'correctional' agency

The Background Arguments

Action 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 Scotland.

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 creation.

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 phone directories

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-
www.scottish.parliament.uk - can tell you who your MSPs are.


Why we oppose a single 'correctional' agency worker

  • 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 sentences.

  • 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 prison sentences.


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, actually increased.

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 objectives.


Action for Members

workerUsing 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 m.byers@unison.co.uk