People in North Wales are being treated like second class citizens when it comes to dealing with sex offenders.
Police and crime commissioner Arfon Jones hit out after it emerged that funding was available for a vital scheme to prevent re-offending in South Wales, but not in the north.
He said: “It seems to be another instance of the ‘pork barrel’ going to the Cardiff Beltway while the rest of us get the crumbs.”
In South Wales the government’s National Offender Management Scheme (NOMS) picks up the bill for the acclaimed Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) programme in which teams of volunteers work with sex offenders to help them rehabilitate and avoid re-offending.
In North Wales the same service has been paid for by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner through a £30,000 payment last year and a further £45,000 to see it through to the end of 2017.
The COSA programme has been running in North Wales since 2007 with remarkable success.
“It is an immensely important means of protecting society by helping rehabilitate sex offenders within our communities, but it shouldn’t have to come cap in hand to my office for funding,” said Mr Jones. “This is something that NOMS should have picked up the tab for as they do in South Wales rather than expecting that something so vital in terms of protecting our communities should be left to a discretionary payment.
“I met Ian Barrow, the deputy head of NOMS some weeks ago, and raised this matter with him and it is disappointing he has not responded following that meeting.
“It is a measure of its tremendous success and the skills of the volunteers that there has been a zero rate of re-offending among those who have entered the programme, which began in 2007.
“In North Wales this vital work has been financed by the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner which gave £30,000 to fund it last year and I have made a second and final payment of £45,000 which will enable it to continue to operate until the end of this year.
“But this scheme is far too important and effective in keeping our communities safe to be left to a discretionary source of funding from the police and crime commissioner.
“In South Wales it has been paid for by the National Offender Management Service which is due to be replaced this year by the new Prison and Probation Service and the new service should properly fund it in future, here and elsewhere in Wales.”
The COSA programme sees members of the community volunteer to work with sex offenders and since it started in North Wales in 2007 none of the offenders taking part has gone on to re-offend.
The project operates across all six counties in the region and each offender is teamed with trained volunteers of diverse backgrounds, ages and professions.
There are 100 volunteers in North Wales and the offenders go through a rigorous risk assessment and selection process before they can sign up.
The offender is considered as the core of the circle and will meet weekly with the team which offers a solid network of counselling, support and guidance on reintegrating into community life.
In North Wales COSA is delivered by the charity CAIS, which is headed by former deputy chief constable of North Wales Clive Wolfendale, in association with the probation service in North Wales and community volunteers.
CAIS, which provides personal support services for the vulnerable, took over the COSA programme after merging with the Wrexham-based Community Justice Interventions Wales which worked to cut crime and anti-social behaviour by offering advice, education and social interaction for the disadvantaged.
COSA’s pioneering approach, which was first developed in Canada and originally taken up in the UK by Thames Valley Probation Area, encourages offenders to sign up to receive the support they need to turn their life around.
There it achieved a 75 per cent success rate in cutting re-offending but in North Wales it has been even more marked with all those offenders who have enrolled on it staying clear of trouble.
Mr Jones added: “COSA’s record in North Wales is brilliant because this is an extremely difficult area in which to work and I commend the efforts of the volunteers who give their time to protect their communities and rehabilitate offenders.
“They are ensuring that fewer people fall victim to these crimes which can wreck their lives and those of their families.
“Their contribution to society and to the people of North Wales is invaluable and their efforts shouldn’t have to depend on a Police and Crime commissioner being able to find them funding – it should be paid for nationally.”
The responsibility for that payment will move this year as NOMS is replaced by a new body announced by Justice Minister Liz Truss.
From April Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service will be responsible for rolling out the government’s programme to reduce re-offending and protect the public, backed by additional £100 million to boost frontline services by an extra 2,500 staff.
See full story in the Free Press