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SNP must honour manifesto commitment on prisoner rehabilitation

December 7, 2012 5:44 PM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Liberal Democrats have urged the Scottish Government to move ahead with plans to trial a new approach to prisoner rehabilitation. This comes as parliamentary questions answered by the Finance Secretary reveal that the SNP government is yet to set out how it plans to honour its 2011 manifesto commitment to pilot the use of social impact bonds as an approach to prisoner rehabilitation and reducing reoffending.

Social Impact Bonds (SIB's) are contracts between the Government and external agencies such as the voluntary sector, with a commitment to pay for agreed social outcomes. The UK coalition government has already piloted a Social Impact Bond or payment by results approach, at Peterborough Prison. The Prime Minister has now announced plans to roll out the payment by results approach in 2015 to the vast majority of rehabilitation work with offenders in the community.

A recent Audit Scotland report highlighted concerns "there is a mismatch between what is currently being delivered and what is known to be effective." Social Impact Bonds will allow those delivering rehabilitation services to decide what works best, with the government paying them when they are successful.

Commenting, Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Alison McInnes MSP said:

"The £128 million investment in reducing reoffending from the Scottish Government is currently dwarfed by the £3 billion annual social and economic cost of reoffending to our society. Without a focus on outcomes, there is little financial incentive to reduce our stagnant reoffending rates.

"Both the SNP and the Scottish Liberal Democrats pledged to pilot a Social Impact Bond in our 2011 manifesto. It's frustrating that the SNP is now wavering on delivering. The Finance Secretary's answers demonstrate nothing but a lack of commitment to improving our justice system.

"Over the past thirteen years reconviction rates have stagnated, with around thirty percent of convicted offenders being reconvicted within one year of release. For every ex-prisoner reconvicted, the cost to the criminal justice system is around £13,000.

"If we are to stop the revolving doors to Scotland's prisons, successful rehabilitation must be a more significant part of our criminal justice system. The SNP government must move ahead with its plans to trial Social Impact Bonds in Scotland. This would see the Scottish Government work with the voluntary sector and social enterprises to fund rehabilitation programmes.

"Partners would be paid on the success of their programme - not irrespective of it. This is a reasonable solution to what is becoming an increasingly unreasonable cost. More importantly, we are failing offenders and the communities we return them to by allowing reoffending rates to stagnate. The SNP must honour their manifesto commitment and set out plans to pilot Social Impact Bonds in Scotland."