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29 April 2004

UNISON calls on Executive to abandon new criminal justice quango

UNISONScotland, the public services union, today called on the Executive and MSP's to abandon the idea of creating a new criminal justice quango by merging the Prison Service and social work criminal justice services.

In a briefing sent to MSP's, (click here for full briefing) the union, which represents workers in the Social Work Criminal Justice services says that many of the current proposals in the Executive consultation are based on the idea that sentencing systems alone will reduce re-offending.

In fact, the union says, we need to provide more opportunities for offenders to move away from law-breaking. This means increasing properly resourced community-based sentences, and increasing the integration of agencies working in the community.

Stephen Smellie, Chair of UNISONScotland's Social Work Issues Group said "Like the Executive we want the emphasis to be on tackling re-offending. But the creation of a new quango will do nothing to reduce re-offending. All the evidence from abroad shows that strengthening the ability to work with people in the community, non-custodial sentences and probation are more effective in stopping crime. A new unaccountable body dominated by the Prison Service would be likely to place a greater emphasis on punishment and custody. He also points out that social work criminal justice services are delivering.

"Concerns regarding re-offending don't indicate failure of social work services. Criminal justice teams are successfully addressing re-offending, and to improve this we need to increase the resources available to them and more closely integrate them with other local government services like social work, housing, education and community services - not rip them out of local government altogether."

The union also believes that the cost and disruption of another unelected quango will remove more services from local control, divert attention from the need to reduce re-offending and make it more difficult to achieve the Executive's aim.

ENDS

For Further Information Please Contact: Stephen Smellie (Chair - Soc Wk Issues Group) 01698 454690(o) 07740 096 864(m) Chris Bartter (Communications Officer): 0870 7777006(o) 07715 583 729(m)

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