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Volume 688: debated on Tuesday 2 February 2021

We are committed to cutting crime and reducing reoffending. A total of 80% of people in our prisons have reoffended, so if we want to cut crime we absolutely need to stop reoffending. In the past two weeks, we have announced a transformative cross-governmental package to address the underlying causes of reoffending: £80 million to increase the number of drug treatment places for prison leavers; and £70 million investment to cut reoffending by supporting people from prison into accommodation.

My hon. and learned Friend will know that, under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017, it is the duty of prison governors to enable people leaving prison to have a secure roof over their heads, so that they are not tempted to reoffend. I welcome the package of measures that has been introduced. Can she go further and explain the roll-out that will take place so that we can ensure that every person leaving prison is offered safe and secure accommodation, and is not tempted to return to a life of crime?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question and, indeed, for the superb work that he has done in introducing the Homelessness Reduction Act. I commend him for his work in this area. He is right to reiterate the £70 million that we have put in to ensure that prisoners do not end up on the streets. That builds on what we have been doing throughout the pandemic: we have been operating an £11.5 million scheme to get people into accommodation from prison. That and other measures will continue to ensure that we cut crime and that people do not reoffend.

It is important to support former prisoners, who sadly include ex-armed forces personnel, to ensure that they do not reoffend. Can my hon. and learned Friend please reassure me that her Department is committed to supporting probation services and the fine work that they do?

I am very pleased to commend the work of the probation service, which has been doing important work at this time. We are supporting it with the finances that it needs, with increased funding of an additional £155 million per year, making a total of more than £1 billion for our probation services. That will enable us to recruit 1,500 additional probation officers next year. The investment will also allow us to help people from custody into the community and create specialist short-sentence teams so that prisoners get help before and after they go through the gate.

The Dyfodol centre provides drug rehabilitation services in Bridgend town, and lots of businesses close to the centre are telling me that its presence has negatively impacted on them. The situation has been made worse during covid as the centre socially distances its users, often outside. G4S, which runs the centre, has engaged constructively with me on this and we now have an agreement in principle to move the service to a more appropriate location. Will my hon. and learned Friend meet me to discuss how her Department can facilitate and expedite this?

We are aware that there have been some difficulties with the building in Bridgend, and we are working with the local community, via the commissioned services to which my hon. Friend refers, to find an alternative location. I know that he has discussed the issue with his Dyfodol partners, and I am happy to have a meeting to discuss it further.

All too often, we see the same people committing the same crimes. In Redcar town, we have a specific issue where the same people are willing to steal from garages or to steal cars, sometimes just for a couple of quid. Our Conservative candidate for police and crime commissioner, Steve Turner, wants to crack down on these repeat offenders by using technology and tagging, if he is elected in May. Will the Minister outline what more the justice system can do to stop reoffenders committing these so-called low-value crimes?

The measures to which my hon. Friend refers—those which his prospective candidate is interested in—are exactly the measures that we are rolling out. We are looking at shortly rolling out tags for persistent offenders, and expanding and refreshing our integrated offender management tools to ensure that the police crack down on neighbourhood crime.

I declare an interest as the founder and chairman of a prisoner rehabilitation charity. I very much welcome the announcement of a new package to support the reduction in reoffending that my hon. and learned Friend just mentioned. Does she agree that the dynamic framework for probation contracts should have an explicit objective of enabling small frontline charities and social enterprises to play a full role, with full cost recovery, in the delivery of rehabilitation services?

I do agree, and I commend my hon. Friend for the work that he did before he came to Parliament to support youths at risk of reoffending. He will be interested to know that of the 221 organisations that qualified for the dynamic framework, nearly 80% are voluntary sector or community organisations. So far, we have awarded 17 contracts, four of which have been awarded to the voluntary sector or community organisations, but we hope to build on this. We expect the proportion of awards in those sectors to increase in the next round, because 70% of the personal wellbeing bids and 100% of the women’s services contracts have come from organisations in those sectors. As I have discussed with him, we are also conducting a review of the first stages of the competition to ensure that we maximise those sectors’ participation in future competitions.