Scots drop plans for single agency as reforms given cautious welcome

The Scottish executive has scrapped plans for a single
correction service but still wants the prison service, police and
social services to work closer together in tackling offending.

The social care sector, which had opposed the plans, welcomed
the decision not to merge the 32 local authority criminal justice
social work departments with the prison service. Ninety-five per
cent of respondents to a recent consultation opposed the plans.

Instead, justice minister Cathy Jamieson announced last week an
overhaul of the current system, which will see new regional
authorities co-ordinate criminal justice services, a legislative
duty for social services and the prison service to work in
partnership, and a greater role for social workers in the
management of sexual offenders.

Ruth Stark, professional officer at the British Association of
Social Workers, said she was relieved the executive decided against
a single agency, but said more needed to be known about the

“This reinforces a key role of social work as working with
offenders,” she said. “But getting 32 social work departments and
the prison service to work together is going to be a hard task. I’m
pleased with what I’ve seen but want more information.”

She welcomed the plan’s emphasis on social work training,
community sentencing and wider view of the contributory factors to
reoffending, such as substance misuse.

Convention of Scottish Local Authorities social work
spokesperson councillor Eric Jackson called the decision not to
pursue a single agency “a victory for common sense”.

“There are a lot of challenges in the new arrangements but we
are confident of meeting these as we work towards our joint vision
with the executive of reducing reoffending rates,” he added.

Jamieson said partnership arrangements between the prison
service and criminal justice social services were not working
effectively and there was too much inconsistency in offender
management services.

The eight informal regional criminal social work groupings will
be replaced with community justice authorities. These will
implement locally the national strategy on offender management
drawn up by a national advisory body.

Other proposals include training 400 police and social workers
in assessing the risk sex offenders’ pose and extra funding for
alcohol and drug treatments to tackle one of the main reasons
behind reoffending.

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