As the ongoing reform of the Probation Service will bring in new private and voluntary organisations to deal with the rehabilitation of offenders, Weston’s MP John Penrose has written to the Justice Secretary to seek assurances that the changes won’t undermine local efforts to improve the quality of rehabs and co-ordinate the treatment of addicts.
John said: “We’ve had amazing success in tackling Weston’s problems with drugs since I became the town’s MP, with rehab places falling by 50% and the worst rehabs either closing or improving. This has mainly been achieved through better coordination between all the local services involved, such as the drug team, the police and housing services.
“When a drug-using offender is released from jail, they have to follow a long course of addiction treatment and rehabilitation before they can lead a normal life again, so it’s very important that they stay on everyone’s radar at all times and don’t go back to using drugs and committing crime without anyone noticing. We need to make sure that the planned probation reforms, useful though they are, have got this angle covered. It could cause terrible problems for Weston if all the right plans aren’t in place in advance. So I’m checking with the Minister that they’ve got this nailed down. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially with something as important as this!”
Copy of John Penrose’s letter to the Justice Secretary, Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP:
I recently had a meeting with the Community Safety and Drug Action Team based in my constituency. You may know that, because Weston has (by far) the highest concentration of addiction treatment and rehabilitation centres per head of population in the entire country, they have had to become one of the most effective and high-functioning teams of their type in the UK.
In the past, Weston’s problems came from an over-concentration of rehabs for a town of our size, and from a group of poorly-run centres which didn’t treat addicts properly and failed to keep checks on them, fuelling local crime. I should mention that we also have some extremely high quality centres such as Broadway Lodge which are an asset to the town. Thanks to their help, in partnership with CSDAT, the police and local health professionals, rehab places have fallen by 50% since I was elected in 2005, the poor-quality centres have either improved or closed, and acquisitive crime has dropped significantly too.
The CSDAT are concerned about the planned reforms to the Probation Service, and their potential effects on offenders needing addiction treatment and rehabilitation as part of their pathway back to becoming normal members of society. They are worried that, with the involvement of private and voluntary organisations in the rehabilitation of medium and lower-risk offenders, developing and delivering a co-ordinated care pathway will become more complicated. Since many care pathways last several years, with many different steps before an addict is ready to take a job and lead an independent, stable life, it’s easy to lose track of offenders during the process. Weston has suffered badly in the past from addicts who have dropped off everyone’s radar and ended up stranded in the town, and much of our recent improvement has come from better co-ordination between agencies to prevent this happening again.
So you can see why we are keen to make sure that co-ordination is maintained throughout an addict’s treatment and rehabilitation pathway, whether services are delivered by the public sector or anyone else. Clearly a more varied list of commissioners and providers of treatment, rehabilitation and support services could make co-ordination more complicated, so I’d be extremely surprised if your Department hadn’t already considered these issues. I should emphasise that the CSDAT aren’t making a point about the principle of the new policy either way; they are simply looking for reassurance about how the new processes will be co-ordinated, to ensure that current standards are either maintained or improved. I look forward to your reply, which I will of course pass on to them.
MP for Weston-super-Mare