On rare occasions only most serious

WE WERE extremely disappointed to see the headline in last week's paper Ex-cons jump housing queue". This, and the opening paragraph's statement, bear little resemblance

WE WERE extremely disappointed to see the headline in last week's paper "Ex-cons jump housing queue". This, and the opening paragraph's statement, bear little resemblance to the actual situation in North Somerset, or to the facts in the article.This headline and first few sentences are sensationalist and give a misleading picture of how offenders are dealt with. You give the impression that serious criminals will be given homes - this is not the case. On rare occasions only the most serious offenders may be given a high priority for housing, so that the relevant agencies can continue to monitor them. This is where we have a statutory obligation to do so and for reasons of public safety, so that such people can be monitored by the police and relevant agencies. Without this they would not be supported or monitored, increasing the likelihood of them re-offending. The policy does not guarantee that a home will be provided - everyone is assessed on an individual basis and according to their housing need. The example quoted is inappropriate as the family you profile would not be competing for the same properties with offenders. Your article misses the aims of our draft new policy with a shift in the approach of the council and its partners, to bring about a change in how housing will be allocated. This will give people the choice to bid for properties they wish to be considered for, in a more open system where they will be able to see where people in similar priority for housing can achieve a new home. It will provide the information people need to make their own decisions on their housing choices. The aim is to empower people and not to confuse them. JANE SMITH - Director of Adult Social Services and Housing North Somerset Council EDITOR'S NOTE: LAST week the Mercury reported how 'dangerous offenders' are considered a high housing priority in North Somerset so authorities can keep an eye on them. This will mean that some criminals are jumping waiting lists when it comes to being re-homed. North Somerset Council has countered by branding the Mercury's story 'sensationalist' - so to allow readers to judge for themselves, we are today publishing the key passage from the council's housing protocol, as provided to us by the unitary authority. The whole document can be found at www.n-somerset.gov.uk/cairo/docs/doc/16737. 4. Protocol for housing dangerous offenders and potentially dangerous offenders 4.1. There is a multi-agency protocol in dealing with dangerous offenders that allows the exchange information on any applicant who has been convicted of a serious offence. Any applicant who confirms on their application form, or who is suspected, or accused, of being a dangerous offender, will be subjected to the provisions set out in the information exchange protocol. 4.2. There is not a 'blanket ban' preventing dangerous offenders from being included on the housing register. However, before any known offender is offered housing, full consultation will be undertaken with the relevant agencies to assess the risks involved. Some dangerous offenders will be given a high priority so that the relevant agencies can continue to monitor them. The North Somerset Multi-Agency Protocol is only for a specific offenders group and only covers referrals from the Public Protection Team and Avon and North Somerset Constabulary and does not guarantee the provision of a tenancy. 4.3. Re-housing of dangerous offenders will be carried out in consultation with the relevant agencies to minimise the risk to the public and with the long term aim of influencing the successful accommodation and resettlement of the offender, thus minimising the risk of re-offending and protecting the public and victims of offenders. The local authorities or Probation Service will bid on behalf of any applicant who falls within this category. 4.4. In the interests of public protection, it is essential that the Police and Probation Service are able to control and monitor the behaviour and activities of dangerous offenders. This task is made more difficult if such offenders do not have a fixed address or are housed in circumstances that make it difficult for the agencies to monitor them appropriately. As mentioned earlier this protocol is nothing new, is used very rarely in North Somerset, and it is so that monitoring of offenders can take place - "Some dangerous offenders will be given a high priority so that the relevant agencies can continue to monitor them." "The North Somerset Multi-Agency Protocol is only for a specific offenders group ....and does not guarantee the provision of a tenancy." Therefore this does not mean that all dangerous offenders will be given high priority or guarantees they will get a place - everyone is assessed according to their housing need.


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