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Punishment backlog

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By Fiona Reid
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Punishment backlog

ARTS and crafts, bird box building and online learning are replacing traditional forms of community service in the region.

Offenders are being given the new at home activity options in a bid to tackle the backlog of punishments that has built up due to lockdown.

Restrictions mean face to face unpaid work has had to be suspended, so officials have instead come up with the softer alternatives.

There are currently 37,000 hours of outstanding community payback orders (CPOs) in Dumfries and Galloway.

But some offenders could even see their punishment written off under new emergency coronavirus legislation.

The Scottish Government have announced they will use the powers to reduce the unpaid work element of some existing orders, with the exception of those imposed for domestic abuse, sexual offences, or stalking.

Local analysis is still being undertaken to assess the impact this will have on the situation in Dumfries and Galloway; however, it suggests approximately 20 per cent of orders will be exempt and the number of outstanding hours will reduce to approximately 20,000.

Councillors will discuss the issue next week and will hear more about the new measures put in place by the local authority’s justice social work team. These include:

* Blended learning packs which allow offenders to reflect on a wide range of criminogenic and well-being issues, as well as their personal circumstances, which may be related to why they have offended in the past, to assist their progress towards a non-offending life. Assistance is given over the telephone to ensure the activity is meaningful and worthwhile.

* Online learning courses, both unit-based and at home. These can be educational/informative or formal. Examples include college based learning or access to online support.

* Independent learning: this can include a research project on a subject of interest.

* Contact with third sector support agencies, such as APEX, Shine, We Are With You.

* Individual placements where the activity is outdoors and covid compliant, for example at an animal sanctuary.

* Volunteering at vaccination centres or food banks

* Assisting with the community response to Covid-19.

* Litter picking in the local community.

* Home working packs: these include bird box assembly and artwork projects.

In a report for the meeting, locality social work manager Catherine Knipe said: “Blended learning packs have proved to be the most beneficial approach to tackling the number of outstanding hours. “Whilst developed by Dumfries and Galloway Justice Social Work workers, we have shared materials with colleagues across Scotland. “Users are benefitting from completing the packs and they are helping identify how unpaid work projects should develop when face to face work can be undertaken again.”

* What do you think of the changes? Email [email protected]

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