National Strategy for Community Justice
This revised National Strategy for Community Justice sets the national direction for community justice by building on progress made to date. It is designed to provide a clear roadmap for future improvement work, by highlighting key areas for partners to focus on.
Aim 3: Ensure that services are accessible and available to address the needs of individuals accused or convicted of an offence
When an individual is in contact with the justice system, there is an opportunity to ensure that they are able to engage with the services that they will require in order to support their basic needs, to rehabilitate themselves, and not reoffend. We equally recognise the need to prioritise victims' safe recovery from harm and trauma. While justice services and specialised throughcare services can plan and support the transition of individuals through and out of the justice system, effective integration and reintegration can only be delivered through the engagement of our universal public services (such as healthcare, employability support, benefits, and housing). These services must ascertain and be aware of the needs and circumstances of people with convictions (particularly those serving a custodial sentence) and those on remand, and be prepared to meet those needs in a timely fashion. We recognise wider ongoing work to improve the provision of universal services and the ability that community justice partners have to take action to improve engagement with services, particularly in the transition from custody to community.
Over the duration of this strategy community justice partners will:
7. Enhance individuals' access to health and social care and continuity of care following release from prison by improving the sharing of information and partnership-working between relevant partners
Prisons should be health promoting environments which support good health and wellbeing. There are many complex needs for which individuals require person-centred support on entering and leaving custody, including: rising social care needs as the population ages, neurodivergent people, those with learning disabilities, those who have experienced trauma and adversity and those who may experience complex physical and mental health needs, and substance use difficulties. We are clear that early intervention, person-centred, trauma-responsive, rights-based and collaborative approaches are key to improving outcomes.
Partners should work together to ensure that both relevant information is made available on admission to support the healthcare needs of individuals while they are in custody and that transition from custody to community is seamless, with health needs supported to ensure successful reintegration where people do not experience stigma and discrimination upon accessing services. This is particularly the case when an individual is being released from prison to a different location in Scotland, and it is key that all health boards commit to having robust arrangements in place which facilitate the appropriate sharing of health information across geographical boundaries. This will involve collaborative working across multi-agency partnerships, digitalisation, ensuring that there are information sharing agreements where required, and shared support plans, including, where appropriate, care packages, and ensuring that there is shared awareness and understanding about what each organisation involved in health does and that guidance and training is in place. For example, the Scottish Prison Service should, where appropriate, issue individuals with a liberation letter, which provides a proof of identity (which can be used to help register with a GP practice) and GP practices should ensure that they comply with the relevant guidance. The relevant NHS Circular notes that no documents are required to register with a GP and that the inability by a patient to provide identification or proof of address is not considered reasonable grounds to refuse or delay registering a patient.
8. Ensure that the housing needs of individuals in prison are addressed consistently and at an early stage by fully implementing and embedding the Sustainable Housing on Release for Everyone (SHORE) standards across all local authority areas
Evidence suggests that people who have access to stable housing are less likely to reoffend. The SHORE standards promote a nationally consistent approach in meeting the housing needs of individuals in contact with the justice system – this approach is person-centred, trauma-informed, and prevents homelessness at liberation. SHORE should ensure that everyone who needs housing support is appropriately engaged in the process with their individual needs identified at the earliest opportunity. Subsequently, individuals should receive timely housing advice and support which identifies and secures suitable and sustainable housing for their release into the community, no matter, where they are serving their sentence.
SHORE outlines the processes which should be followed from admission to post release, these are:
- co-ordinate efforts to maintain existing tenancies and possessions;
- minimise instances of emergency homelessness upon liberation; and
- provide suitable and sustainable tenancies on release that individuals are supported to maintain, including Housing First, if appropriate.
In order to fully implement and embed SHORE, partners should develop and engage within multi-agency protocols that address the needs of relevant individuals (including employability, homelessness and health and social care needs; including substance use and mental health) and describe the local processes between community justice partners and prisons. In addition, the Scottish Government/COSLA's Ending Homelessness Together Action Plan promotes Housing First as the default response to homelessness for people with multiple and complex needs. This covers addictions, mental health and repeated interactions with the justice system. We know that several Scottish local authorities have adapted their Housing First services to support people leaving prison, to ensure that those who would benefit from Housing First support are allocated a permanent tenancy with suitable wrap around support upon release where possible.
The main focus of SHORE is on people entering and leaving prison, however, as reflected in the SHORE standards, we recognise the potential to consider the wider justice pathway, including at the point of arrest, and those who are released directly from court. We recognise that this further work may be assisted through the envisioned future introduction of the Homelessness Prevention Duties.
9. Enhance individual's life skills and readiness for employment by ensuring increased access to employability support through effective education, learning, training, career services and relevant benefit services
Being employed has been shown to be associated with reduced reoffending. The way we support individuals to undertake training and education pathways with a view to accessing, retaining and sustaining employment before, during and after they are involved in the justice system is therefore critical. Community justice partners should take a person-centred approach, recognising that individuals are at different stages of the employability pathway and that not all individuals serving community sentences, in custody, or leaving custody are 'employment ready'. Additional needs such as addiction, healthcare, benefits and housing support may need to be addressed before an individual is ready to develop skills to sustain employment. Individuals may also require opportunities to develop skills in a supported work environment and individuals with additional support needs including communication support needs may require reasonable adjustments to be made, in order to bridge the gap between employability support and sustainable employment. However, some employers are speaking out to highlight that when appropriately selected and given support where appropriate, individuals with previous convictions can not only secure and sustain employment, but can prove to be committed and successful employees.
We also recognise the beneficial changes made by the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Act 2019 to reduce the Disclosure periods for certain past criminal convictions. We would encourage partners (with an interest in employability) to help to ensure that people with criminal convictions are aware of these changes and their positive impact when seeking employment.
No One Left Behind is the Scottish and Local Government's partnership approach to an all age employability service working with partners at a local, regional and national level to deliver a person-centred, place-based design and delivery approach. In implementing this commitment, community justice partners should ensure that there are direct pathways between the justice system and employability services, in particular with Local Employability Partnerships (LEPs) which operate in every local authority area to provide support to individuals to progress into and sustain quality jobs. We also recognise the strong links between work to improve employability outcomes and work to widen access to higher education. Additionally, engaging families and family learning are critical components in the "theory of change" which underpins the Scottish Attainment Challenge. Employability leads should engage with SPS, justice social work and others to continually develop and enhance relationships, policy and processes, enhance community links, and ensure that the pathways to employability are supported at each key stage. In particular Skills Development Scotland can champion issues relating to community justice and assist, with other local partners, in improving the employability outcomes of individuals who have criminal convictions within LEPs.
Leading by example, statutory partners should also examine their own recruitment processes to ensure that people with unspent criminal convictions are not, in practical terms, being unnecessarily excluded from the possibility of employment.
10. Enhance community integration and support by increasing and promoting greater use of voluntary throughcare and third sector services
When an individual is released from custody, they are likely to have been disconnected from mainstream public services, and will potentially need additional support to re-engage. This is a vulnerable time, where any gaps or failures in the delivery of support can have severe consequences for the individual, leading to an increased demand for emergency support services, or potentially a return to offending and a return to custody. To support individuals, there are a range of statutory and voluntary throughcare services available, as well as third sector and specialised services which engage with individuals, depending on their individual circumstances. On release, individuals can request voluntary throughcare assistance provided by local authorities – either from a justice social work officer supervising them after release, or from local authority / justice social work if they are not subject to supervision. Local Authorities have a statutory responsibility to offer voluntary throughcare, which consists of advice, guidance and assistance to individuals who request such a service either before release from custody or within 12 months of their release.
Partners should work together to ensure that effective throughcare support services are in place and consistently offered, working in co-ordination with the activities of the SPS, justice social work and other public services supporting individuals and meeting the specific needs of different groups of individuals interacting with the justice system. This will involve robust co‑ordination and planning processes being in place across justice, public and third sector services, to plan those activities in co-operation with individuals. There is also a need to ensure that public services are aware of the particular needs and challenges faced by individuals in the justice system, and for them to pro-actively engage with that population at the earliest stage, to ensure their needs are supported.
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