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Recruiting army of 15,000 mentors could be "game changer" in bid to cut reoffending, Jonathan Aitken says in new CSJ report

The roll out of mentoring schemes across England and Wales could help cut the £11 billion-a-year cost of reoffending, former Cabinet Minister Jonathan Aitken has said in a new Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) report.

Mr Aitken, who served seven months in HMP Belmarsh in 1999/00 and who has since successfully mentored numerous offenders, said mentoring should be an intrinsic feature of the Government's Transforming Rehabilitation strategy, which will see 21 new community rehabilitation companies (CRCs) set up to support low and medium risk offenders.

Currently 58 per cent of prisoners sentenced to less than 12 months in jail reoffend within a year of release.

Mr Aitken, a CSJ Fellow who also chaired the report Locked Up Potential, said that by harnessing the efforts of a fleet of new volunteer and professional mentors, offenders could be helped to turn their lives around. The report, which builds upon previous CSJ publications on criminal justice, says mentoring should begin before prisoners are released from jail and continue beyond the prison gates.

The Ministry of Justice estimates that some 53,000 low and medium risk ex-prisoners will be looked after by the new CRCs. Based on evidence from mentoring organisations, Mr Aitken estimates that 15,000 professional and voluntary mentors could be recruited over the next five years to help tackle reoffending.

This would be paid for out of the £450 million annual budget that the Government has allocated for its Transforming Rehabilitation strategy.

The report, Meaningful Mentoring, was covered by a host of regional and national media, including the Observer and the BBC.

Mr Aitken said increased focus on mentoring could be a “game changer” in the Government’s overall attempts to cut crime.

Read more of the CSJ’s criminal justice research: Locked Up Potential, Dying to Belong, Rules of Engagement and A Force to be Reckoned With.

Senior Labour MP Diane Abbott to deliver CSJ ‘Good Society’ lecture

Efforts to tackle mental health problems in black and minority ethnic communities will come under the spotlight when Labour MP Diane Abbott delivers a speech to the CSJ next month.

Ms Abbott, who previously contested the Labour leadership, is giving the latest in the CSJ’s series of ‘Good Society' lectures – which explore Labour’s social policy plans.

The Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP will use the speech, on May 7, to discuss mental health problems in BME communities in London.

This will be the third in the series of ‘Good Society’ lectures. Labour policy guru Lord Glasman discussed politics of the common good in February and a month earlier former Home Secretary David Blunkett MP, Chairman of the CSJ Advisory Council, warned of the rise of political apathy in the UK.

This is the second time the CSJ has held a series of 'Good Society' Labour lectures. The first was in 2012 where speeches were given by manifesto supremo Jon Cruddas MP, former Government Minister David Lammy MP and Graham Allen MP, who has spearheaded much of the current Government’s work on early intervention.

Ms Abbott will speak in central London on May 7. Details are available here.

Why we need a society of the second chance, CSJ Director says during TEDx talk

Politics urgently needs to be transformed and the benefits of volunteering released if people are to be helped out of entrenched poverty, CSJ Director Christian Guy said at a TEDx talk last month.

Describing the work of the CSJ over the last 10 years, he said there was a “parallel Britain” that has been cut off from mainstream society and where factors like family breakdown, addiction, problem debt and economic dependency are common.

The talk came just before new figures revealed the major gap in life expectancy across the UK – just 75 per cent of boys and 85 per cent of girls in Glasgow can expect to reach their 65th birthday.

Speaking in Warwick, Christian described the work of frontline charities who are transforming some of the most deprived communities with limited resources and said they were a great source of hope.

Watch the full TEDx talk here.

Applications open for 10th annual CSJ Awards

Are you a community-based organisation working to tackle the root causes of poverty? Do you know an organisation that is fighting poverty and disadvantage in its local area?

The CSJ’s annual awards – which honour some of the UK’s most effective voluntary sector groups tackling social breakdown and disadvantage – are open for applications.

This prestigious event will be held in October and will award prizes of £10,000 to charities, small voluntary groups and local projects who are turning lives around and transforming communities.

High-profile figures from the worlds of politics, entertainment and sport will attend the ceremony along with charities and local groups.

Previous attendees have included Sir Bob Geldof, Alastair Campbell, Davina McCall, Dame Kelly Holmes and Jemima Khan.

Details of previous winners and attendees are available here and footage can be found on our YouTube page here.

The deadline for applications is June 6 and more information about applying can be found here.

CSJ in Doha for major international event promoting family stability

The CSJ was invited to present its research on family breakdown at an international conference attended by senior politicians and ambassadors in Doha earlier this month.

Director Christian Guy and Dr Samantha Callan, the CSJ’s Associate Director for Families and Mental Health, spoke at the Empowering Families conference and outlined CSJ research showing the problems that can be caused by family breakdown.

The event, organised by Doha International Family Institute (DIFI), was opened by Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, and culminated with a call to action that will be read out on the floor of the UN and go to all governments represented there.

All governments were urged to support family stability, acknowledge that family breakdown ‘can be both a root cause and an effect of poverty’ and recognise the contribution and responsibility of men to families.

Read Gulf Times’ coverage of the CSJ visit here.