UNISON case against the single 'correctional' agency
This briefing is intended to provide Branches and members with
an outline of UNISON Scotland's arguments against the creation
of a single agency. It also details ways for Branches and members
to raise awareness of the 'single agency' debate within their
local communities and how to apply pressure on local MSPs to make
clear the strength of UNISON opposition to this proposal.
Following on from the Executive's recent consultation on reducing re-offending
in Scotland, UNISON is concerned that Ministers remain intent on pressing ahead
with plans to create a new single 'correctional' agency merging the Scottish
Prison Service (SPS) with Criminal Justice Social Work (CJSW) services.
Scotland is strongly opposed to the establishment of such a centralised agency
to deliver both custodial and non-custodial sentences. It creates yet another
quango and removing services from local authority control.
We believe that
shoehorning SWCJ services into a single agency will not ultimately reduce re-offending
levels nor aid the rehabilitation prospects for offenders.
Scotland opposes the creation of a single 'correctional' agency
The policy does not fit the stated objective. There has been no explanation
by Ministers as to how creating a centralised single correctional agency will
achieve the objective of reducing re-offending rates. The model of an integrated
and centrally co-ordinated single agency is one that has been widely rejected
throughout the rest of Europe. There is an abundance of evidence, which clearly
shows that countries, which have adopted this approach have not reduced re-offending
and prison populations have actually increased.
2. Resources will be
diverted away from front-line services into an unaccountable quango. UNISON
Scotland believes that the establishment of another unelected quango would further
weaken local democracy and reduce the involvement of locally elected representatives
in the provision of services to offenders. A new quango would also mean the removal
of yet more vital services from local democratic control in addition to making
it immeasurably more difficult to exploit the close working relationship between
the various local authority services.
3. If a single-agency is established
and CJSW services removed from local authority control, multi-agency work will
be seriously weakened. A vital feature of the current system is the ability
of CJSW services to work with other services in the local authority and elsewhere
to provide a comprehensive and targeted range of services for offenders. CJSW
services work within a multi-agency context with other social work colleagues,
including those from children and families and also addictions. In addition they
also work closely with the voluntary sector and with other agencies such as housing,
health and the police.
4. A single agency will dilute the social
work task within the criminal justice system. Transferring CJSW into a 'single
agency', where the major emphasis of the work will be on correctional tasks such
as monitoring, supervision and punishment, will lead inevitably to a perceived
need for less qualified social work staff.
5. There exists a
different ethos between the Prison Service and Social Work services. The CJSW
workforce is an extremely well qualified and experienced workforce, who have built
up excellent local knowledge of the communities in which they work. They work
closely with other agencies, view themselves as an integral component of the wider
social work service and crucially deliver a 'social work service' within
6. Ultimately, a reduction in re- offending rates will
only be brought about by a change in Scotland's sentencing policy. UNISON
Scotland believes that the current sentencing regime in Scotland is the single
most important factor that must be addressed if rehabilitation of prisoners is
to be effective. We know from evidence-based research that short-term custodial
sentences do not deter individuals from re-offending, yet in 2002 over 80% of
all custodial sentences in Scotland were for terms of 6 months or less. This sentencing
regime makes no sense and we believe that the Executive should give proper consideration
to implementing more effective and long-term alternatives to short-term prison
Public Service Networks - a viable alternative to a single
If the Executive is successful in establishing a single 'correctional'
agency UNISON Scotland maintains that this will damage the effectiveness of our
criminal justice system, and the quality of throughcare and aftercare services
provided for offenders. There are alternatives to this proposed radical restructuring
of Scotland's criminal justice system, which we believe will afford greater opportunities
to build offenders capabilities and provide realistic opportunities for moving
away from law-breaking lifestyle.
UNISON Scotland believes that rather
than forge ahead with a major reorganisation of the entire criminal justice system
the Executive should consider creating a Public Service Network similar to that
adopted in the Joint Futures programme. This way the SPS, CJSW and other services
can be brought together to work more effectively without the kind of upheaval
that a full-scale merger would involve. It is obvious that better integration
between the agencies involved in providing services to offender's needs to be
We believe that a multi-agency partnership approach - a Public
Service Network - would ensure a better focus on shared objectives between all
the agencies involved in providing these services.
Action for Branches
the 'Arguments for Members' leaflet to encourage members - particularly
in Social Work - to write to their own MSP outlining their opposition to a single
'correctional' agency. You can discover contact details for your local MSP on
the Scottish Parliament website at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/msps/index.htm
your local media, newspapers and radio to argue against the creation of a single
agency and to raise awareness of the issue within your local community.
should study proposals for the single agency and be aware of the implications
for UNISON members in CJSW services.
Scotland response to the Scottish Executive's re-offending consultation - http://www.unison-scotland.org.uk/response/reoffend.html
Parliament inquiry into the rehabilitation of prisoners - http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/justice1/evidence/reh/j104-reh-00.htm
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