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Major changes needed to tackle reoffending in Scotland

Posted: 7 November 2012

An Audit Scotland report, Reducing reoffending in Scotland, looks at the efficiency and effectiveness of approaches taken to address the problem. Reconviction rates have remained relatively static over the past decade, and 30 per cent of offenders are reconvicted within one year. In 2010/11, 9,500 people convicted (one in five of convicted offenders) had at least ten previous convictions.

The Scottish Prison Service, Community Justice Authorities and Scottish Government spent £419 million in 2010/11 dealing with people convicted in court. Less than a third of this, £128 million, was spent on reducing reoffending.

The report says Community Justice Authorities, established in 2007, have struggled to achieve their role of improving joint working, due to the way they were set up and inflexible funding. It says the Scottish Government should review how offenders are managed in the community to ensure that: those working with offenders have clear and shared goals; there is clear accountability; and arrangements promote what is effective in reducing reoffending.

Auditor General for Scotland, Caroline Gardner, said:

“Almost £130 million is spent a year on reducing reoffending and it is important this money is spent effectively. However, access and availability of services vary across the country, and there is a mismatch between what is delivered and what is known to work to reduce reoffending. In particular, there needs to be more support for people serving short term sentences.

“The Scottish Government needs to review how offenders are managed in the community. The government, the Scottish Prison Service, Community Justice Authorities and councils need to improve how they plan, design and deliver services for offenders, and make sure they’re based on evidence of what works.”

Chair of the Accounts Commission for Scotland, John Baillie, said:

"The report highlights the variation in the costs of criminal justice social work activities. Councils should work with Community Justice Authorities to improve their understanding of why costs vary and how they relate to the quality of services. This should in turn inform decisions about how to use resources and where they can be more efficient.”

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