Fears over plans to axe funding for reintegrating ex-offenders

By Connie Osborne Friday 07 February 2014 Updated: 07/02 09:14

ACCOMMODATION used to integrate ex-offenders back into the community could be axed under proposed cuts by Worcestershire County Council.

The council currently spends £332,500 on services for ex-convicts which includes funding to help them maintain their accommodation and live independently in the county.

It includes those housed in social housing as well as private accommodation.

But under proposed changes, funding for the service as well as mental health and learning disabilities services, could be cut in a bid to save the council at least £32million over the next three years.

If the plans are approved, it would see the budget drop from £15 million to just £6.5million and some of these services - which the council is not legally obliged to provide - could be replaced with reliance on the voluntary sector and other providers.

But Coun Mark Shurmer, who represents Lodge Park on Redditch Borough Council, said he was worried about what could happen to those who had just been released from prison and wanted to start a fresh life.

“If we have vulnerable people put in the middle of our estates with no support who is to say what could happen. I find it quite frightening,” he said speaking at a consultation meeting at Redditch Town Hall.

“The borough council will end up with these people as general lets and we will end up footing the bill which county should be providing.

“It is just ridiculous, and what will happen to young offenders? Will children’s’ services take over that? They could fall through the gap.”

County councillor Joe Baker, who represents Arrow Valley East, said: “As a former prison officer it is scary to think what is going to happen to these people, this service is in place for a reason. Are people going to re-offend?

“People want to start fresh, then there is nothing out there for them. It seems they are taking advantage of the most vulnerable who cannot stick up for themselves.”

But Sheila Blagg, cabinet member for Adult Social Care on Worcestershire County Council, said contracts with service providers who supply the accommodation were always due to end in March 2014.

“Subject to a final decision on the Future Lives consultation we will consider how any future commissioned services could include support for a range of individuals including offenders,” she said.

“The Council has been in consultation with current service providers and other key agencies who will consider how they can assist with any future support and assistance.”

Councillors Blagg, Marcus Hart, responsible for health and well-being and Liz Eyre, responsible for children and families, will make a decision on the withdrawal of funding in a variety of areas as part of the Future Lives proposals on Wednesday (February 12).

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