Cabinet Office
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Call to allow more offenders to volunteer

Call to allow more offenders to volunteer

CABINET OFFICE News Release (CAB014/09) issued by COI News Distribution Service. 3 March 2009

Baroness Julia Neuberger, the Government's independent volunteering Champion, today called for more offenders to be able to volunteer as part of their rehabilitation.

Baroness Neuberger said: "There simply wouldn't be a reliable criminal justice system in this country without the dedication of volunteers so I want to see more emphasis put on their role right across the system."

A report published today by Baroness Neuberger recognises that volunteers already have a hugely important role in the criminal justice system. There are some 30,000 volunteers working as Magistrates, 6,000 Victim Support volunteers and 14,000 special constables to name just a few. However, she felt that more could be done to tap into the potential of people who have experienced the system becoming volunteers.

Baroness Neuberger went on to say: "There is particular potential for people who've experienced the system to support others. Nobody is better placed to work with prisoners and reduce re-offending than someone who has experienced prison. A positive Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) check could sometimes be viewed as an advantage for certain voluntary roles.

"Volunteers are not a cheap way of delivering public services, nor can they replace paid staff but they have huge potential to improve the system so I want to see more volunteers encouraged to take part." Kevin Brennan, Minister for the Third Sector, added: "This report has some bold ideas to unleash the great potential that volunteers have to help improve public services and I welcome it."

The report found that volunteers could 'blow fresh air' into often closed institutions. However, it did find that whilst some parts of the criminal justice system rely heavily on volunteers, particularly in the care of victims, other sections remain suspicious of involving volunteers in their work.

Other recommendations include:

* A permanent Volunteering Champion to co-ordinate good volunteering practice across the CJS agencies.

* Joint Guidance, by the trade union movement and Volunteering England, on the use of volunteers within the public services.

* Government to work with partners to develop a sustainable funding model for victims' organisations.

* More government funding for specific volunteering schemes for offenders.

* All agencies of the CJS should have a strategy to engage the skills of ex-offenders in volunteering.

* Guidance to help local criminal justice boards and the people who commission CJS services to consider the involvement of volunteers.

* Local agencies like courts, police authorities and probation boards should invest in volunteer management.

Notes to editors

1. To view the full report 'Volunteering across the Criminal Justice System please go to: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/media/124076/volunteers%20in%20cjs.pdf

2. Baroness Neuberger was appointed as the Government's volunteering champion in June 2007. She works closely with Kevin Brennan, the Minister for the Third Sector, and reports directly to the Prime Minister.

3. In March 2008 Baroness Neuberger published her report, Volunteering in Health and Social Care. The first in a series examining the role of volunteers in public services. It found much potential to expand volunteering in health and social care to create more people-centred services, and a better understanding of service users. To view the report please go to: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/media/cabinetoffice/third_sector/assets/neuberger.pdf

Cabinet Office Press Office 22 Whitehall LONDON SW1A 2WH
Tel: 020 7276 0317 - Fax: 020 7276 0618
http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk

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