Community Safety Partnerships have a statutory responsibility under the Policing and Crime Act 2009 to develop a strategic approach to reducing adult reoffending. This report outlines the current approach within Solihull to meet this responsibility.
In attendance:Chief Superintendent Ian Parnell (West Midlands Police); Superintendent Richard Harris (West Midlands Police); Diane Rhoden (NHS Birmingham and Solihull ICB); Neil Appleby (Probation Service); Mrs Alison McGrory (Solihull MBC); Gillian Crabbe (Solihull MBC); Caroline Murray (Solihull MBC); and Councillor D Howell – Cabinet Member (Communities & Leisure).
The Board considered a detailed report setting out the current strategic approach within Solihull to reduce adult reoffending and how the Safer Solihull Partnership was delivering its statutory responsibility under the Policing and Crime Act 2009.
Having considered the written report, delivery plan and introductory presentation by Neil Appleby, the Board asked the following questions and made the following observations:
· Cllr J O'Nyons highlighted the Reoffending Delivery Plan and asked for further detail on what work was being done around family-based interventions. Cllr O’Nyons also asked for further detail on the local use of unpaid community service work. Neil Appleby advised that the delivery plan was still developing around family ties. One recent piece of work had been commenced and was looking at the children of prisoners and how the Partnership could better serve the needs of those children. In terms of community payback, the Board was advised that unpaid work still remained a significant element of community sentences. Mr Appleby advised that community payback could be better promoted in Solihull to raise its profile.
· Cllr A Feeney asked how the Partnership and Probation Service liaised with prisons. Neil Appleby explained how local and national liaison was undertaken with key activities being triggered typically between 7 and 10 months prior to release; working with a variety of agencies. It was acknowledged that there were improvements that could be made to liaison and further work was ongoing to identify and implement improvements. Cllr Feeney highlighted the importance of the key worker programme within prisons who would normally be assigned to prisoners, noting the resourcing challenges that were evident. Drug and alcohol recovery was also discussed, and the Board asked what linkages were in place to continue that support once a prisoner was released. Mr Appleby explained that there was a target to engage with 70% of prisoners upon release and offer ongoing community treatment. The number of actual individuals was circa 25 to 30% and this was seen as a challenge. Several health and justice coordinators had now been employed at local level to strengthen the links between prison and community healthcare. Cllr Feeney also highlighted that when prisoners were released and resettled into new communities, key support linkages could be delayed or lost. The Partnership were asked what was being done to prevent this scenario and was advised that, within Solihull, there was a relatively low level of accommodation that was suitable for the needs of released offenders. Displaced released offenders, where necessary, would be accommodated geographically nearby within Birmingham. One of the most significant priorities going forward was to ensure that “supported accommodation” offered the correct levels of support for a released offenders needs.
· Cllr B Donnelly highlighted the challenges around reoffending and falling back into a criminal or dependant lifestyle with drug and alcohol perceived to be the main drivers. Cllr Donnelly also highlighted that delayed access to services, post-release, was also of concern and multi occupancy housing might even influence vulnerable individuals returning to drug and alcohol dependencies if support services were hard to access or under resourced. Mr Appleby advised the Board of interventions such as day-rehabilitation which was the main service model being used which worked in parallel with safe and secure accommodation; nothing the challenges and expenses associated with that.
· Cllr A Burrow noted the work undertaken by St. Basils housing charity and asked if that organisation was providing any support and, additionally, how inventive the Partnership had been in working with local charities to resolve some of its challenges regarding temporary housing and enabling employment opportunities. The Board was advised that housing and opportunities for employment were the key bedrocks for rehabilitation, albeit funding challenges were always evident. Mr Appleby explained that one current initiative was to establish an employer offer to support offender rehabilitation and steer individuals into work and away from reoffending.
· Cllr A Feeney asked what work was being undertaken to break the cycle of addiction and help permanently stop individuals using drugs. Neil Appleby explained that individuals generally endured several attempts at recovery before being successful. Challenges around GP registration for released offenders was a key issue in supporting recovery and gaining access to support for addictions and mental health services. It was acknowledged that further work was needed to improve this.
· Cllr W Qais asked how the success of the Reducing Reoffending delivery plan was measured in terms of having a positive impact on the Partnerships key priorities. Neil Appleby explained that future versions of the plan could include more robust datasets around e.g., reoffending, released offender re-settlement accommodation and released offenders in employment tracking.
That, subject to the comments and views recorded in the preamble above, the Board UNANIMOUSLY made the following recommendations to the Safer Solihull Partnership and the Cabinet Member (Communities & Leisure):
(i) That, the Board notes and welcomes the current work to reduce reoffending;
(ii) That, further work be undertaken around family-based interventions to strengthen the delivery plan and ensure, particularly, young families of prisoners are identified and supported as appropriate;
(iii) That, the community payback element of community sentences be promoted to raise awareness within Solihull and prompt greater usage of that resource;
(iv) That, the Partnership consider the highlighted challenges surrounding GP registration for some newly released offenders to ensure they can access support services without delay upon release (i.e. continuity of care issues); and
(v) That, the delivery plan should incorporate clear performance measures utilising data pertaining to reoffending, released offender resettlement and employment tracking to evidence its overall effectiveness.