MP seeks assurances drug problems won't return
By Carol_Deacon | Wednesday, March 06, 2013, 16:51
Weston MP John Penrose fears a privatised probation service could bring back problems policing drug addicts in the town.
Even before he was elected back in 2004 John launched the Cleaner Weston campaign to give the town fewer, better rehabs
Government minister Chris Grayling revealed plans earlier this year for the wholesale outsourcing of the probation service with private companies and voluntary sector organisations to take over the rehabilitation of the majority of offenders by 2015.
And the justice secretary wants the public probation service is to be scaled down to dealing only with the most dangerous and high-risk offenders and public protection cases.
The majority of services will be contracted out on a payment-by -result basis.
Mr Penrose has written to Mr Grayling to seek assurances that the changes won't undermine local efforts to improve the quality of rehabs and co-ordinate the treatment of addicts.
Mr Pensore said: "We've had amazing success in tackling Weston's problems with drugs since I became the town's MP, with rehab places falling by 50 per cent and the worst rehabs either closing or improving.
"This has mainly been achieved through better coordination between all the local services involved such as the drug team, the police and housing services.
"When a drug-using offender is released from jail they have to follow a long course of addiction treatment and rehabilitation before they can lead a normal life again, so it's very important that they stay on everyone's radar at all times and don't go back to using drugs and committing crime without anyone noticing.
"We need to make sure that the planned probation reforms, useful though they are, have got this angle covered.
"It could cause terrible problems for Weston if all the right plans aren't in place in advance."
And he called on the minister to check ' they've got this nailed down'.
He added: "It's always better to be safe than sorry, especially with something as important as this."
When Mr Penrose was first elected in 2005 the resort had a reputation as somewhere addicts are abandoned without the proper support to stop them from falling back into drug abuse.
At that time Weston was said to have the largest number of drug rehabilitation centres per head of population than anywhere in Europe.
Mr Penrose actively campaigned for improvements and won the backing of the Healthcare Commission chief executive Anna Walker who produced a damming report.
Ms Walker took action on the 25 worst performing partnerships and with intervention from other professionals the problems began to rescind.