Improved social care for offenders could benefit all society

The one-day event at the University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol will feature prominent speakers, including Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust and Secretary General of Penal Reform International, and Professor Rod Morgan, former Chair of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales.

The conference, called Making Society Just, will be hosted on 1 February by the South West Offender Health Research Network, commissioned by and in partnership with Offender Health South West, (NHS/DH South West). It will be held in UWE’s Exhibition and Conference Centre.

The conference will bring together representatives from across the South West region and the UK who work with people in the criminal justice system, to explore ways that the public sector and voluntary or community sector (VCS) organisations can work better together to deliver health and social care services for offenders. Voluntary organisations that span health, social care, education, mentoring and outreach projects involved directly with people in the criminal justice system, including Clinks, NACRO and arts charities such as the Dance Academy and Live Music Now will be represented.

Organiser Nick de Viggiani said, “The coalition Government’s ‘Big Society’ political and economic goal is to reduce public spending by shrinking the public sector and engaging more effectively with voluntary, community and independent sector organisations. In the field of criminal justice, this implies the transfer of health, social welfare, education and resettlement activities to providers beyond the public sector.

“The involvement of VCS organisations with offenders and ex-offenders is not new, but the implication is for a wider playing field where organisations may openly bid for tenders, whilst demonstrating they can meet outcomes, address unmet need, and provide cost savings. Essentially, for a provider to bid for a tender, it should be able to demonstrate that it can effectively provide what it purports to provide, whether this be healthcare, education, social care, resettlement or reducing re-offending. A significant gap in this strategy is the lack of good evidence of what works.

“We have therefore organised the conference to debate the implications of the ‘Big Society’ reforms for the future of criminal justice services. Our goal is to discuss how to deliver effective, evidence-based practice, and we will showcase examples of best practice to demonstrate where the VCS organisations are already working with people in the criminal justice system.

“A high proportion of people in the criminal system have complex health, social and welfare needs, many with chaotic backgrounds and histories. Voluntary and community sector organisations are highly experienced in dealing with the needs of offenders and can provide valuable interventions for people across the system, where conventional services struggle to engage effectively with offenders.

“We hope the conference will appeal to anyone working with people in the criminal justice system. VCS organisations who work with people in the criminal justice system will be able to share their experiences and join in the debate over the future of criminal justice provision. We expect that delegates will comprise a rich mix of people working within prisons, probation, the courts, the police service, youth justice, universities and the NHS.”

The conference will be chaired by Professor Rod Morgan, former Chair of the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales, and speakers will include Neil Carmichael, Conservative MP for Stroud; Juliet Lyon CBE, Director of Prison Reform Trust and Secretary General of Penal Reform International; Clive Martin, Director of Clinks; Lynn Emslie, Head of Offender Health for NHS South West, and Ali Smith, Director of Live Music Now South West.

Lynn Emslie said, “Making Society Just is the second of two events held in the South West in order to explore the concept of the Big Society and inform and influence effective partnership working. In line with current Government thinking, the public, private and voluntary sectors need to develop systems which will enable those people who are in contact with the criminal justice agencies to access timely, appropriate and cost effective services in order decrease health in-equalities and reduce re-offending.”

For more information on the conference visit Making Society Just

For further information please contact [email protected] .