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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 2 Hansard (21 May) . . Page.. 480 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

The increased throughput, however, across the board has led to a reconsideration of the way in which we manage that system and a number of things have happened in that area. We have executed a memorandum of understanding with key stakeholders for the work undertaken by the community corrections unit, which looks after this area, to better define what it is that we are trying to achieve, both from the point of view of service providers and from the point of view of the Government. We have embarked on a more intensive training exercise for staff, to ensure that they will be in a better position to manage the extra throughput. We are also reassessing the instruments we use to assess the kinds of controls we need on people who are subject to community service orders.

The scheme has not been abolished; it has been restructured. CSO offenders who were previously managed principally in gangs - a group of people went out together at the one time to look after a weed eradication project up one of the hills somewhere or some other mass exercise - are now being managed by being placed directly with community agencies. Before that change, most of the staff and other resources were used to assist just one community agency, Handyhelp, to achieve the outcomes for which the ACT funds it, at the expense of other community organisations. What we have now done has been to allow for support for a much larger number of organisations at a higher level, although obviously the organisation that misses out in that process is Handyhelp.

Resources will still be made available to Handyhelp and we still hope that they will be able to achieve many of their goals with those resources, but a number of those changes necessitated a different way of managing the community service orders program. In particular, it was felt that having a large number of convicted people together in a gang was not a good way of being able to have those people reintegrate into the broader mainstream of the community. There was some evidence that there was an exchange of information of a criminal nature between people in those gangs. It was felt that it was better to have them off separately in a large number of organisations than based in a single organisation. I have written to Handyhelp to explain what we are doing and we will certainly work with Handyhelp to make sure that their general needs are being met; but the needs of the system, particularly of the community service orders system, come first. That is essentially why these changes have been made.

MR RUGENDYKE: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. Mr Humphries, you mentioned the slight restructuring of the program. Does the Government have any plans to move towards a system of user pays with community service orders?

MR HUMPHRIES: No, it does not, Mr Speaker. We see that program as being a way of doing two things. One is having those offenders work in settings where they may acquire skills and build up friendships, perhaps, which lead them into a productive role in society once they have finished their period of service. We also see it as a way of being able to assist community organisations to meet their legitimate community needs. Charging them to do that would be counterproductive. The arrangements other community organisations put in place to recoup costs of their own is another matter. I believe that Handyhelp, in fact, has charged people to use the gangs previously made available under the CSO scheme. So, in a sense, there is already a charging component, but it comes about through the service organisation rather than the Government's agency. Those sorts of charges might well exist in the future, but probably less so because only a small number of individuals will be placed with individual organisations.

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