A project that has successfully reduced reoffending rates among sex offenders may be hit hard by the government’s planned spending cuts.
Circles UK, the umbrella body for local Circles of Support and Accountability, told The Friend, an independent weekly Quaker magazine, that the cuts could be “extremely serious” for their work.
The scheme works with sex offenders to help them to change their behaviour, with the aim of benefiting victims, potential victims and local communities. There are considerably lower reoffending rates amongst those involved in Circles than amongst sex offenders generally.
Stephen Hanvey, Chief Executive of Circles UK, told The Friend that a reduction in its work would be “a peculiarly perverse consequence of government policy” given Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke’s encouragement of a renewed focus on rehabilitation.
If cuts to the work of Circles result in increased reoffending rates, they are likely to have a greater financial cost in the long run, due to the costs of imprisonment and other aspects of criminal justice.
Hanvey insisted that “the Circles programme is very effective – and cost-effective – in terms of reducing reoffending”.
For the last three years, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has provided around half of the funding for Circles UK nationally. The organisation has yet to hear whether this funding will be renewed.
Hanvey also pointed out that the expected cuts to probation and police budgets would be “critical” for the funding of local Circles projects.
He added that financial support from the police, probation service and MoJ has given Circles credibility in the eyes of charitable trusts. He therefore fears that the cuts could also damage the ability to attract non-statutory funding.