Nacro Chief Executive, Jacob Tas, said:
“While the Queen’s speech inevitably focused on Brexit, the government must not take its eye off the ‘injustices’ in this country, which the Prime Minister rightly referred to. We respond below to specific proposals included in the Queen’s speech based upon our experience of supporting disadvantaged young people and adults through our education and skills, supported housing, and health and wellbeing services, as well as our work within the criminal justice system.
“We welcome the aim of the Courts Bill to free up court time and reduce delays. However, we are very disappointed to see that the previous sections of the Bill to reform prisons and embed rehabilitation as a primary purpose of prisons have been scrapped. With the rising prison population and stubborn reoffending rates, we must act now to stem the flow of people going into the criminal justice system, as well as having a relentless focus on rehabilitation. We are also concerned about the potential implications of proposals to submit online pleas. In particular, the ease with which vulnerable groups, including children and young people, people with mental health concerns, or learning and communications difficulties, could simply click on a mouse to submit a guilty plea, without a full understanding of the bearing this might have on their lives.
“We are pleased to see the Government’s commitment to putting technical education on par with academic success. Nacro works with many young people for whom traditional academic education routes haven’t worked. We know from our experience that vocational and technical approaches can re-engage young people and help them to progress into further education, training and employment and to reach their full potential.
“We welcome the Government’s commitment to increased mental health support and urge them to make this a reality as quickly as possible for children, young people and adults across the country struggling to access the care they need. We encourage the Government to take action to tackle the overrepresentation of people from black and minority ethnic communities with mental health problems within the criminal justice system.
“Housing proposals to ban letting fees will help to reduce some of the barriers to securing high quality and stable housing. We look forward to further details on plans to build more homes, which we would like to see include the increased availability of social and supported housing for vulnerable groups. It is crucial that supported housing services for vulnerable people are protected and boosted to ensure that they get the support they need to move forward and prepare for independent living.”