17/07/2008

Hostels Make 'Significant Contribution' But Staff Still Pressurised

A new report has revealed that staff working in hostels across Northern Ireland are under a great deal of pressure.

However, the facilities which accommodate offenders - known as 'approved premises', have been praised for making a "significant contribution" towards current public protection arrangements.

The Criminal Justice Inspection report looked at six facilities throughout Northern Ireland, and made a total of 19 recommendations for improvements, praising some hostels for performing better than others.

Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice, Kit Chivers, described the geological spread of approved premises as "uneven". Mr Chivers said: "This is an issue that both criminal justice agencies and the Northern Ireland Housing Executive have already recognised."

However, the report praised the hostels for their role within the community. Mr Chivers continued: "Over the years their role has shifted and Northern Ireland's six approved premises, each of which are operated by organisations in the voluntary and community sector, are now deeply involved in the supervision and monitoring of offenders.

"This inspection report has confirmed that while these facilities cannot and should not replicate prison within the community, they play a valuable and important role in assisting in the assessment and management of the risks posed by offenders who the courts and other agencies have decided should be released from prison."

The report also noted that risk management is taken "extremely seriously" by each of the approved premises and that inspectors saw "some good practice" in managing difficult people - some of whom could pose a risk to the public.

The criminal Justice Inspection concluded that a programme of "small-scale" regular inspections of approved premises and it will also follow this work up with a full inspection in three years.

(JM/NS)

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