JUNE 2022: With Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Shelford

May 25 2022

Housing project will help reduce reoffending

LAST month, I celebrated one year since local people elected me to be Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner – and what a year it has been.

I’ve enjoyed every single day, week and month since being elected in May 2021 and over the last few weeks I’ve been reflecting on the achievements of the last year, including the publication of the Police and Crime Plan, the appointment of Chief Constable Sarah Crew and the increase in the policing part of the council tax, following a successful consultation with more than 5,600 responses from local people.

With the support of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, we secured over £1 million in funding for independent domestic violence advisors and sexual violence advisors, as well as over £100,000 of additional funding for sexual violence and domestic abuse services.

I also supported the launch of the Identifying Disproportionality in the Criminal Justice System report, and I have become the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners’ national lead for economic and cyber crime.

There’s still plenty of work to be done, including continuing to ensure the new chief constable is delivering efficient and effective policing; meeting with local people and partners – particularly residents in rural areas – to hear about their policing concerns; and progressing work on the national economic and cyber crime portfolio.

I’m very much looking forward to the year ahead and seeing what can be achieved.

I work with many local agencies to prevent and reduce reoffending across our force area.

Recently, I was lucky enough to see an innovative scheme in Gloucester that aims to reduce reoffending by giving prisoners a chance to learn new and transferable skills.

The scheme sees prisoners released on temporary licence from Leyhill Prison help build affordable, eco-friendly housing pods that will be situated on “meanwhile sites” – land which is temporarily available before being put to another permanent use – across the south west.

The modular housing – which has a minimum lifespan of 60 years and is easy to relocate – will provide accommodation for prison leavers, refugees and those at risk of homelessness, and refuges for domestic abuse victims.

As well as providing prisoners with skills that will help them find jobs when they leave prison and settled accommodation, which can reduce reoffending by up to 50%, prisoners will also be paid for their work, which could contribute towards a housing deposit or rent.

The pods also help alleviate the lack of affordable housing and have eco-friendly features including a solar-powered heat pump and insulation made from recycled milk cartons.

However, the programme needs support, especially more permanent or temporary sites that will allow more projects to be rolled out. So I want to hear from councils and landowners who have meanwhile sites where six housing pods could be located for six years. This scheme is quite literally giving people a new start and, by doing so, keeping the community safe. Please do get in touch if you want to be involved.