Herald column August 23rd 2018

With so much negative news around about the justice system and crime it was good to be able to visit a local scheme which has been a huge success and meet some of the beneficiaries. I was invited to see the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Community Rehabilitation Company over in Hastings who effectively run the local probation service for over 9000 low and medium risk offenders.

I met staff and ‘clients’ on one of their ‘One Stop Shop’ days where a wide variety of local agencies and voluntary organisations give comprehensive advice and support to get back on the straight and narrow, into voluntary or paid work and crucially out of jail sustainably. Rates of re-offending have remained stubbornly high at around 40-50% nationally over the last 15 years with short custodial sentences deemed particularly counter-productive but results in our area have broken the trend which is why I wanted to see them.

Many offenders in the probation service have a series of interconnected problems including mental illness, addiction, poor qualifications or chaotic family backgrounds. Just dealing with one without addressing the rest often results in a vicious cycle of failure so this scheme attempts to look at more holistic solutions. They operate a series of ‘community payback’ schemes and are laws looking for charities and other worthy causes who need help whilst they also work with businesses prepared to give work opportunities to ex-offenders. Shoe repairer Timpsons for example have made a virtue out of it with hugely impressive results. Are you part of a charity or company who could get involved?

I visited several brilliant small local charities recently including those working with vulnerable young people and victims of domestic violence including The Daisy Chain Project newly arrived in Worthing and Esteem at the Old School House in Shoreham. They are both doing brilliant work as usual helped by a small team of dedicated volunteers and scarce budgets. They and many more like them always need more help and it struck me that it would be a good way forward to set-up a ‘speed dating’ event for potential volunteers to come along and find out more about them and see whether they can help out as trustees, workers, fundraisers or just donors.

So the offer is there. If you would like to be part of such an event and boost publicity for your charity or good cause let me know and I will arrange an event locally in the autumn if there is sufficient demand.

Great to see lots of young skaters and scooters turnout for the ‘Skate Jam’ event at the Lancing Beach Green skate park organised by Lancing youth charity Electric Storm Youth, of which I am proud to be a patron. There was plenty of talent on display and good to see Beach Green buzzing with young families on a summer’s afternoon. Despite the invitations I declined to don a hard hat and get on a board myself though!