Our calls ahead of the 2024 Election | Nacro

Our calls ahead of the 2024 Election

Nacro looks forward to working with whichever party forms the next government to help ensure everyone has the chance to succeed and the support they need to fulfil their potential. The challenges we set out below we believe are important key areas the next government needs to address and we stand ready to assist and to build on the work we have done to date.

At Nacro we believe that everyone deserves a good education, a safe and secure place to live, the right to be heard, and the chance to start again, with support from someone on their side. We provide practical help and personalised support through our education, housing, justice, and health and wellbeing services. We work closely with people to help them build independence and to move forward to a better future.

But this isn’t enough on its own. We need the barriers holding people back removed, and systems we all rely on improved, to give everyone a fair chance. This election is an opportunity to take a step back, to ensure that  we do the right thing and create the lasting change that will serve us all, for the long term. Creating safer communities and ensuring that everyone has the best chance to succeed.

The next government needs to commit to reforms that see no one left behind. This means giving people opportunities to thrive in education and training, somewhere safe to live and the best chance at a second chance when things go wrong.

These proposals are built on the direct experiences of the people we support, Nacro’s frontline staff across our education, housing, and justice and health services and evidence of what works.

  • 12 %

    of 16 to 24 years are NEETs

  • 309 k

    people are homeless in England

  • 114800

    people are projected to be in prison by 2028

Illustration of a woman

1. Giving young people the best chance

Too many young people who fall behind at school are unable to get the support they need to catch up and thrive after they turn 16 – leaving too many people behind.

There is a clear and significant disadvantage gap – the gap in achievement between disadvantaged students and their more affluent peers – which can be seen throughout the course of children’s education.

Every day in our education centres we see young people with huge potential who have faced challenges and who have not always had the support they need to overcome these.

We see how with tailored support, and learning and qualifications which create a future pathway, young people not only re-engage but thrive. Efforts to tackle disadvantage have tended to focus on the early years and school age children. But the impact of disadvantage doesn’t stop at 16, and in fact we know that the disadvantage gap gets worse in the last years of compulsory education. We are calling for:

Expanding the Pupil Premium available for disadvantaged children in the early years and during school years to include 16-18 year olds would allow targeted extra support to tackle the barriers holding disadvantaged young people back. Additional focused funding of £1000 per disadvantaged 16, 17, and 18 year old student would benefit around 750,000 additional young people helping close the educational achievement gap and giving everyone the chance to learn without limits.

There is a backlog of children and young people waiting for an Education, Health and Care (EHC) Plan. All children and young people who need an EHC Plan should have one issued within the 20-week time scale. This should be alongside more investment so schools can offer children and young people the help they need.

 

 

Young people are increasingly struggling with their mental health. This is especially prevalent amongst 16-19 year olds. We would like to see a mental health professional in all education settings up to 19, including Alternative Provision and further education settings to ensure young people can get the help they need at the earliest opportunity.

One in seven young people in England don’t achieve Level 2, the equivalent of five GCSEs at grade 4 or above by the age of 19. This is even worse for disadvantaged young people. Level 2 qualifications are critical stepping stones into work or further/higher education for young people we work with and beyond yet many have been under threat. We need a broad range of high-quality Level 2 qualifications to provide pathways for young people into further learning and work.

Young people we work with experienced first-hand the scale of the digital divide during Covid-19 with significantly reduced opportunities due to a lack of access to digital devices and data. We want to see a Government guarantee that every disadvantaged young person has access to sufficient data and an appropriate learning device; all education professionals have appropriate digital skills; and all education providers have the required digital infrastructure.

Taking early action to prevent young people becoming NEET is critical to avoiding the long-term impact on job prospects, earnings and heath that not being in education, employment or training can have. We want to see a Young Person’s Guarantee that ensures a long term strategy to tackle youth unemployment and ensure no young person is left behind. In 2023 the Youth Employment Group set out a clear plan for tackling youth unemployment in the form the Young Person’s Guarantee, which includes early intervention and support for young people at risk of and those who do become NEET.

We know that once children and young people are drawn into the criminal justice system they can feel labelled and stigmatised, which can then be difficult to break away from. In addition, we know that having a criminal record can hold people back from moving on with their lives and have a lifelong impact, on education and their working lives. Providing support, alternative activities and raising aspirations should be prioritised over punitive sanctions for anti-social behaviour.

image of cartoon Man and women around table

2. A safe and secure home with appropriate support

Having somewhere safe and secure to live is the foundation we can all build our lives on.

But homelessness and insecure housing blight the lives of far too many people. And for people facing complex challenges, supported housing is a critical building block which allows them to get the support they need together with the security of a home, to enable them to build the independence and resilience to move forwards with their lives.

Yet we see across our services that a shortage of supported housing and the lack of availability of accommodation to move on to is creating a system where even if you manage to get a supported housing place, you may end up becoming trapped there and unable to move on towards independence. The people we support consistently highlight this as one of their biggest concerns.

We want to see:

Supported housing should be available for every person and family that needs it. Alongside this we need to tackle poor quality supported housing and ensure good quality homes and support for those who need them.

Every month, hundreds of people are released from prison homeless and many more leave with insecure or only a temporary bed. Two-thirds of people who are released homeless reoffend within a year – a cycle of cell street repeat.

Without a home to go to on release from prison it is virtually impossible to get a job, start substance misuse of mental heath support, build back positive relationships, or reintegrate back into and contribute positively to society. We know from the people we support that leaving prison without somewhere to live is simply setting people up to fail. For people leaving prison who, as a last resort, are placed in 12 week temporary accommodation, a lack of move-on accommodation risks simply delaying homelessness by 12 weeks if they have nowhere to move onto.

Following a stay in supported housing or other transitional accommodation, too often people find they are unable to move on to independent accommodation, faced with a lack of availability of suitable accommodation or inflexible benefit rules. Through no fault of their own, this leaves people stuck in supported accommodation at a higher cost to the taxpayer when they are ready and able to move on, also creating a bottleneck which prevents other people from being able to get the support they need.

Illustration of a man

3. The best chance at a second chance when things go wrong

We all make mistakes, some much worse than others.

The sad truth is that, when people become homeless, face substance misuse or addiction or go into prison, they can be swept into a current they feel powerless to escape from.

We are sending too many people to prison for too long, and we are also sending too many people to prison who shouldn’t be there. Severe levels of overcrowding mean prisons simply can’t focus on rehabilitation.

Many enter prison having been homeless, and people in prison have often experienced trauma, exclusion from school, poverty, substance and/or alcohol misuse, difficult family relationships and/or experience of the care system. We see through our work how far too many of their issues remain the same when they are released: the system is not doing what it should to help them move on or to reduce the risk of them committing further crimes.

In fact going to prison can make things worse, as people can lose their homes, their jobs, and family and community ties – all of which we know play a part in reducing the chances of someone committing further offences.
The approach of consecutive governments of sending more people to prison for longer has failed. Reoffending is high, public confidence in our justice system is low, and the criminal justice system is at a point of crisis that we simply can’t continue to ignore. We need a new approach. An effective criminal justice system benefits us all.

We need to:

We need to move beyond the rhetoric and clearly define our approach to crime, the purpose of prison and how we deliver an evidence-led justice system that is fit for the future, focused on rehabilitation and which creates safer communities for us all.

A Royal Commission on criminal justice would be a way of bringing together political parties and experts in criminal justice both through learnt and lived experience, to set out a long-term plan to build an effective criminal justice system.

To reduce reoffending and give people the chance to turn their lives around, prisons must have a relentless focus on rehabilitation.

People we support through our justice services tell us how prisons do very little to help people to turn their lives around on release and that tackling high levels of overcrowding needs to be a priority as this makes rehabilitation almost impossible.

They identify key areas for improvement in prisons:

    • Purposeful activity and a real working day –taking part in meaningful education, learning a trade or skills and being in work while in prison all play important roles in helping people turn their lives around, prepare for release, and provide purpose. Yet around half of people in prison don’t have any purposeful activity. Jobs and education in prison should be available to everyone and the working day should reflect the reality of a working day outside prison to ensure we best prepare people for release. Everyone who is eligible for ROTL (Release on Temporary Licence) should be given the opportunity to work in the community, pay back to society and save for release.
    • Mental health in prison– People in prison have significantly higher rates of poor mental health than in the community with high rates of self-harm, suicide, depression and anxiety. Yet too many people leave prison with their mental health problems unaddressed. People in prison need to be able to access the mental health treatment and support they need during their prison sentence. And prison staff play a critical role in the day to day engagement with people in prison and so they must be given ongoing training in mental health and support to help drive a culture where mental health is prioritised.

Short prison sentences are less effective than alternatives in the community at reducing reoffending. They often cause more disruption to people already living chaotic lives and can lead to losing a home, a job, and social support which can all help someone turn their life around.

We need to introduce legislation as a matter of urgency to increase the use of community alternatives instead of short prison sentences and ensure the Probation Service has sufficient resources and support to deliver this.

Everyone should have the best chance at a second chance when they are released from prison. Having somewhere to live and the means to support both themselves and their family is the most basic of what people need, but all too often people leave prison without a stable place to live, unemployed and feeling lost and without hope.

By strengthening the focus on rehabilitation and the commitment to put in place the basics, we know that more people will get a real second chance.

  • Develop a network of Prison Departure Lounges – the day of release can be overwhelming and if the barriers are too high people leaving prison can be swept back into old networks and patterns of behaviour. A network of Prison Departure Lounges in every prison that releases people to the community would provide a one-stop-shop for people as they are released where they could meet their probation officer, make calls to the local housing team or the DWP and set up appointments, meet family, charge their mobile phone, and pick up any basic essentials to help them get through the first few days. These are basic but essential things and having this support on release can make all the difference to ensuring that people have the best chance of building positive futures.

 

  • Ensure people have immediate access to financial resources – We must ensure that people can make a claim for Universal Credit before release so they are able to access financial resources immediately on release and not left struggling to get by.

 

  • Strengthen the role of the voluntary sector – many voluntary sector organisations deliver critical services to people during their time in prison and on release. The voluntary sector is well placed to build trust and rapport with people in the justice system and deliver high impact support. Services should be centred around the person rather than centred around artificial barriers that commissioning structures can create.

 

We look forward to working with whichever party forms the next government to help ensure everyone has the chance to succeed and the support they need to fulfil their potential.

Our work on Government policy

Following the General Election, we have shared the five priorities we are asking for the Government to focus on in 2024. These include working to reduce overcrowding in prisons, homelessness after prison, improving employment after prison, learning and employment pathways for young people, and mental health support for young people. You can read more here.