Keep offenders’ programme on track, urges Beggs

Roy Beggs

East Antrim Ulster Unionist MLA Roy Beggs has asked Justice Minister David Ford about the impact of funding cuts on the “Jobtrack” programme overseen by NIACRO.

Speaking during the Assembly’s “justice question time”, Mr Beggs queried: “Will the minister acknowledge that the ‘Jobtrack’ programme run by NIACRO had very successful outcomes?

“However, as a result of loss of funding, some 36 experienced workers in the sector will have lost their job. What gives him confidence that good work can be replicated by the further education colleges?”

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In response, Minister Ford said: “A number of different strands go together. I fully acknowledge, and I repeat to Mr Beggs, that there are problems with the cuts that have had to be made, from a variety of different backgrounds, on organisations such as NIACRO.

“The direct work that is being done with employers and the work that will be taken forward by the two further education colleges, including specific formal skills, will all assist.

“However, it is a key issue that requires a lot of effort, and it is difficult to do all that we would wish to, given the cuts being imposed on the Department. That is the unfortunate reality.”

Mr. Beggs added: “The ‘Jobtrack’ programme was successful in rehabilitating offenders and assisting them into employment. Surely programme funding decisions should be guided by successful outcomes such as this NIACRO scheme which successfully reduced re-offending.

“It is disappointing that this successful scheme has ended. Clearly, the Department of Justice and the Department of Employment, each of which has an Alliance minister, should be talking to each other so that such gaps in support are created.”

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