In order to tide us over the embarrassing lack of a blog post for today, I notice there's just enough juice left from that recent MoJ love-in for one more helping. In order to make sure we avoid blank pages appearing, can I put in another reminder about our guest blog facility? They're always popular and it's a brilliant way to get stuff off your chest anonymously.
4th February 2015 London - Atrium Event for MoJ Staff
Q: Good morning, I work in the Reducing Reoffending Policy Unit, we know that 70% of offenders who do not have their accommodation needs met go on to reoffend, which is obviously an incredibly high number. We also know that social housing is a problem among local authorities …
Chris Grayling: Yeah.
Q: … I'd like to know, from the Secretary of State how he sees transforming rehabilitation as addressing this cos clearly it cannot magic up housing that doesn't exist.
Chris Grayling: Well the first thing I would do if I was running one of the CLCs is to establish a housing operation. You're right about limitations on social housing, and of course private landlords will typically not rent to somebody who’s just coming out of prison, but a private landlord would do a deal, you know, a five year deal, a seven year deal with a corporate entity to rent that property on condition they get it back in the same condition that they'd let it out in the first place.
And I would be building up a block of relationships with private landlords, and my team are developing some of my own accommodation that would be a provision for people coming out of prison to get them stabilised and sorted out, erm, funded obviously by the housing benefit they receive, I've been saying all along in the contracting of that TL, that’s what I would do.
There are some housing associations already involved in doing that who could play a part in that, but that’s the first thing I would do. They’ve got the freedom to do that.
You know, I say as a CRC now outside the public sector you can do a seven year deal with a landlord, we as a department would never be allowed to do that with the Treasury, we’d have to go through all kinds of paraphernalia, and so that's one of the freedoms I hope they’ll have.
Ursula Brennan: Andrew Selous just wanted to add …
Andrew Selous: Can I just add very briefly on that, one of the issues I picked up from, questioning I was subjected to at the Justice Select Committee was the very ability of different local authorities in this area, as you all know very well we operate in – on a principle of equivalents as far as offenders are concerned, and I've asked for a little bit more transparency so we could at least see which local authorities are playing fair in terms of their allocation policy as far as ex-offenders are concerned.
And I think if we can get that information out in the public domain in the transparent way we’ve been talking about earlier, that will help drive the change that you've quite properly spoken about.
Ursula Brennan: One more question then, yes, the gentleman in the blue there.
Q: Hi, around Christmas I read of a story of a man who had been released on probation and as part of his probation he, had a curfew, I think it was something like, between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. he had to stay at home. He got a job but that job started at 6.15 a.m. and as a result the probation service which I think it was a priv… private, probation service said, ‘You've – you've, breached your probation terms of your probation, you go back to prison’.Now, you could argue that they’ve – were working technically by the book, but as, I can imagine you'd want, want people – prefer people in work than to be in prison, as, you know, becoming productive members of society and so I feel that there's an element that – that they had been failed by the system in some way and is kind of an arbitrary – there's an arbitrariness about it, and I was wondering if you could – were aware – deliver some more (unclear) spirit of justice rather than kind of the arbitrary bureaucracy that some people, get imposed on I think.
Chris Grayling: Right, a couple of points, if it was around Christmas the private providers only took over on Monday so it wouldn’t have been them. What I'd also caution is don’t always believe everything you read in the papers. And those of you in parts of the department will quite regularly I suspect get, newspaper stories that you think, are not strictly accurate.
The most recent one was the Sunday Express, big front page that said we were giving keys to the cell to Ian Huntley and Rose West, which was not entirely true. What they had was the ability to lock the door when they were sitting on the loo so nobody walked in, but of course prison guards could override that at any time if they needed to do so.
So it wasn't quite what the story said. So I – I – I would offer a word of caution about that. The truth is that both courts and probation staff have got flexibilities if they need them. And the new system is particularly flexible er, in – in working with people. You're absolutely right, if that was happening, if that story was true, I would not in any way condone it.
I can't say that across the whole probation system nothing dumb is ever done cos I suspect it is, but generally speaking I think most courts and most probation people apply common sense.
Andrew Selous: Yeah, I'm pleased you mentioned that, a couple of years ago I had a constituency case which was quite similar to the one you've described, I mean I think we have to look to see what – what the order of the court was, but of course your basic premise is absolutely right, that work is a good thing both to prevent people getting in to trouble in the first place and very much to help them stop reoffending, so we would all obviously want to support erm, orders which allowed people to do their jobs at the time at which their jobs start and finish.
Ursula Brennan: I think we've, we've run out of time really here. I just wanted to say a few things in – in wrapping up. You've heard from the Ministerial Team a whole series of instances which they’ve identified where they're really pleased with the hard work................ (that's enough - Ed)