THE BLOG

An Agenda for Change

16/07/2015 10:58 BST | Updated 15/07/2016 10:59 BST

Investment in communities is essential for any government. Nacro and other organisations like us change lives and transform communities. Our work is difficult and complex. It is rooted in working with individuals and communities to move people forward and help people to see and reach their potential.

The decisions made after this week's budget and leading up to the Autumn Spending Review will impact on generations to come. It is critical that we take a long term view, that we do not set one social cause against another and work together to solve the challenges of austerity whilst ensuring we do not create intractable social problems for individuals and future generations.

Our mission is predicated on the conviction that we must reduce the devastating effects that deprivation has on individuals and on communities. To do this we must target our resources to invest in what we know works to move people forward and to provide tangible opportunities that lead to work, sustained housing and improved health and prosperity.

Changing lives is complex. Often there is no quick fix. The people who are blighted by crime, drug and alcohol addiction, suffer from mental ill-health, trauma, homelessness and chronic unemployment will zigzag in and out of recovery, work and services. Too often, people get stuck in a cycle of offending, or crisis care, unemployment and in work poverty. Doing nothing is a high cost policy, high cost to families, to communities, to victims and to the tax payer.

Achieving change requires a balance of targeted support and interventions that work to address needs, whilst working to promote resilience, independence and provide tangible opportunities for the future. For the people we work with and communities we work in, Nacro is a lifeline.

On its specific work Nacro is calling on the government to:

1. Create an education system that works for all young people. Provide parity of esteem between vocational and traditional education and create a system that is focussed on providing employment and harnessing talents that will determine future prosperity.

To shift education funding policy to concentrate on individual learner needs. To review education provision for young people for whom vocational education will offer better career opportunities and include behavioural problems under specialist provision.

2. To redress proposals to restrict housing benefit for 18-21 year olds with specific vulnerabilities. To invest in and focus on what works in supported housing to enable people in crisis to move into lower cost secure and sustainable housing.

There is a looming crisis in the specialist housing sector. Funding constraints limit the availability of housing related support which is central to moving people out of homelessness and into independent living. Further cuts to the sector, the long-term loss of affordable homes to rent, through current policies will increase instability for vulnerable people, making their ability to turn their lives round and achieve their aspirations far harder, with a greater cost to the tax payer whilst benefiting exploitative landlords.

3. To commit to the roll out of liaison and diversion services across England.

Liaison and Diversion services exist to identify individuals of all ages who have mental health, learning disability, substance misuse or a wide range of vulnerabilities when they first come into contact with the criminal justice system. It builds on the recommendations from Lord Bradley's review into people in the criminal justice system with mental health problems and learning disabilities. By intervening early and joining up services we can not only achieve positive outcomes for the public and reduce health inequalities but also find economies of scale.

4. Put resettlement at centre of crime and justice policy.

The cost of reoffending is estimated at between £9.5Billion and £13 Billion. 25.1% of people re-offend after leaving custody; for children it is over 68%. This is persistently high. Two-thirds of prisoners are not in employment, nearly half have no qualifications and over 13 per cent report never having had a job. Planning for release needs to happen from the start of a sentence. Only by ensuring that individuals have a home, prospect of a job, support for mental ill-health, and deal with drug and alcohol problems will we be able to change the way offenders think and behave, help people to build positive relationships and move on from crime. Transforming Rehabilitation must ensure that resettlement is the priority for prisons, - the secure estate and CRC's. This means connecting community services to prison. It means a greater investment in prevention and early intervention and a long term view on the cost to society, families and the state from failing to invest to save now into the future.

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