One of my key priorities as the Police and Crime Commissioner is to hold Surrey Police to account for preventing and solving more crimes and pursuing those offenders responsible for them.
The public rightly expect our police to catch the criminals and put them before the courts to be given the appropriate punishment, which can often lead to a prison sentence. Of course helping to bring criminals to justice is a really important part the police play in keeping our communities safe.
But what happens once those people have served their sentences and are released back into society? Sadly, we all too often see these individuals drift back into a life of crime, getting in trouble with the police again and ultimately returning into the criminal justice system.
A really important area of focus for my office over the last year has been steering those who have previously committed offences away from reoffending.
Often people on probation have complex needs but I strongly believe if the right services are offered to those who have been to prison or are serving community sentences then we can help stop them falling back into their old ways. This means the communities in which they live will also benefit.
My office has a Community Safety Fund which has ring-fenced around £250,000 to finance projects in this area and I am pleased to say we are making good progress through schemes we are helping fund across the county.
Around 50 Surrey residents per month are released from prison back into society and often face issues around a lack of stable accommodation and the ability to find employment.
We are helping fund projects around accommodation and what is known as ‘Through the Gate’ services where prisoners are supported in the final stages of their sentence through projects which continue following their release.
We‘ve been supporting a pilot scheme in Surrey known as ‘Behind Bras’ which is helping women released on licence from prison attend college and learn new skills in the fashion industry where they will ultimately be offered work placements. Funding from my office is currently assisting five local women through this programme.
Another pilot project in Surrey we have recently pledged to support involves teaming up with an independent charity called ‘Clean Sheet’ who focus entirely on supporting ex-offenders, both men and women, into sustainable employment.
We are the first PCC office in the country to be partnered with the charity who work with national and local businesses and employers to refer and support ex-offenders into appropriate employment. It is proposed the scheme will run for an initial period of 12 months in Surrey handling around ten work-ready referrals per month.
Finding employment can be a crucial step for those who have recently been through the criminal justice system in trying to get their lives back on track.
It is not always easy to find businesses who are willing to take on those who may have a criminal record but with the help and support provided by Clean Sheet, I think this is a really worthwhile project and hope to see it succeed here in Surrey.
If your business wants to know more about becoming a Clean Sheet employer then please do visit their website at www.cleansheet.org.uk or contact my office.