Mind the gap

Amar_smallWEBEmployability support should be an important part of tackling reoffending rates, says Amar Lodhia

Last month I was invited to take part in a ‘MOPAC Challenge’, a regular deep dive into one aspect of criminal justice conducted by London’s deputy mayor for policing and crime, Stephen Greenhalgh. Held at City Hall, this particular MOPAC Challenge focused on substance misuse; I was representing the charity sector alongside Addaction. We were joined by senior officials from the NHS, local authority community

safety teams and, of course, the Metropolitan Police service.

During the session, we reiterated our belief – which we’ve made in this column many times – that employment and self-employment work. I also spoke about the natural entrepreneurial flair in many of the people we encounter and how this needs to be channelled into something positive for the individual and for society.

But our key point, which I’m glad was supported by other participants at the challenge, was to identify a gap in the provision and resourcing of employability skills in the Integrated Offender Management (IOM) teams with local crime fighting forces. These are multi-agency hubs, run by the police, looking to bring together a wide range of organisations to help tackle the most prolific of reoffenders, up to a third of whom also have substance misuse issues. However, we’ve found that employability support and promoting self-employment is one area that, in most cases, is missing from these IOM hubs – support that we know can help reduce the rates of reoffending and substance misuse.

Of course, having identified the gap, the challenge now is how to fill it. It’s an area that we know the deputy mayor took on board as one of his three actions from the session, and which we hope to be supporting him on, given our experience.

In fact, this is the gap that we are hoping to fill in West Yorkshire. We recently visited three major IOM hubs there as a part of our planning for an innovative service to reduce crime and drug-related crime in the region. These Integrated Offender Management teams were some of the first to be set up anywhere in the country and have been having a real impact in reducing the levels of reoffending. The visit confirmed everything we’d been saying about a gap, but they also reminded us how we can achieve so much more when agencies and organisations work together.

How to get these smaller organisations and charities working and delivering in the public sector, in the face of competition from far larger organisations, is an issue that will exist at least until the general election next year. The shadow social enterprise minister, Chi Onwurah, announced that a Labour government would offer some government contracts that only not-for-profit organisations could bid for. Following one of the biggest shake-ups in government since the 1960s, the departing minister for civil society, Nick Hurd, urged the prime minister to do more to enable small charities and social enterprises to win public contracts. As we get closer to May 2015, I hope we’ll hear a lot more from all the political parties on this subject, but I’m keen to get your thoughts as well.

To enquire more about our work, please contact me at amar@tsbccic.org.uk and follow me on Twitter @amarlodhia or @tsbclondon. Don’t forget to use the #tag DDNews when tweeting!

Amar Lodhia is chief executive of The Small Business Consultancy CIC (TSBC), thesmallbusinessconsultancy.co.uk

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