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
    plans.

    “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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