Published:

Cllr_barrow_1 Cllr Colin Barrow, the leader of Westminster City Council, on how Foundation Councils could help fight crime

Earlier this week, I set out the concept of Foundation Councils and the sort of general powers and freedoms that such authorities should have. I am now detailing a number of specific proposals and areas where Foundation Councils could play an increased role in tackling those major issues that we are facing.

The problem

Research shows that in Westminster young people aged 18-24 are most likely to reoffend, with a reoffending rate of 44.9%. There is currently no organisation in Westminster responsible for young adult reoffending by non-statutory offenders (those receiving prison sentences of under 12 months) and no lead organisation working with this group to reduce their reoffending.

A more localised, targeted and co-ordinated approach would help to reduce reoffending amongst this key age group and save public money.

The possible solution

An Integrated Offender Management (IOM) scheme should be implemented to work with young adult offenders (on short-term prisons sentences) in prison, upon release from custody and in the community to help reduce reoffending. IOM is a co-ordinated approach to managing and rehabilitating offenders making sure all agencies that have a role to play work together to deliver more with less.

The model would manage offenders consistently, using pooled local resources, integrated governance, information sharing and collective selection and prioritisation to intervene, support and enforce to turn offenders away from crime.

Research has shown that the key to reducing reoffending is to provide support to offenders through the seven reducing reoffending pathways, including: accommodation; education, training and employment; health; drugs and alcohol. We believe that a Foundation Council is best placed to deliver these
services as it is a provider of many of them already and has strong links with the voluntary sector
so will be able to signpost young adults to additional voluntary sector services.

Enhancing current powers

  • Government should agree a payment on results model, such as a Social Impact Bond so that if reoffending is reduced, a percentage rate of return on up-front investment is paid to the local authority and investors. Risks could be shared between the Ministry of Justice and the local authority so that the council does not hold all the risk.
  • Offender management should be devolved to the council so that Probation Service resources can be commissioned more effectively.
  • The Government should make the Prison Service a statutory partner to enhance the relationship between the local authority and the Prison Service and improve data sharing so the local authority knows which prisons Westminster residents are sent to and when they are being released.
  • Changes to sentencing practices should be made so that IOM could be added to the sentencing, alongside the short-term prison sentence.

Defining better outcomes

Similar initiatives have resulted in a positive impact on reoffending. For example, the Vigilance project in Westminster is an example where resources have been focused at a target group and resulted in a 7.9% reduction in robbery; 11.9% in burglary and 14.3% reduction in total serious acquisitive crime.

Elsewhere, Spotlight IOM in Tameside achieved a 41.1% reduction in the offending levels of the group which produced savings of £426,856.

Financial implications

By pooling together resources, the IOM scheme would be more efficient to run. IOM can result in significant reductions in reoffending and financial savings. The projected financial benefits of IOM scheme based on the National Audit Office’s figures and Bradford Total Place Pilot Report show the potential savings if 10 people out of Westminster’s 192 short-term offenders stopped offending as £835,000. A prison place for a young adult costs approximately £50,000 per year and the estimated total cost of reoffending nationally is £1 billion per year – IOM can help reduce these costs. If a payment on result approach is explored with the Government, some of these savings could come back directly to local authorities.

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