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26 Jan 2004 : Column 232W—continued

Probation Boards

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the cost of establishing and running probation boards was in (a) 2000–01, (b) 2001–02 and (c) 2002–03. [147627]

Paul Goggins: The cost of running the local probation boards in the three years in question is:

£ million
2000–01 (Estimated)529.5
2001–03 626.8

The estimated transition costs incurred to set up the new board arrangements was £2 million, excluding the costs of amalgamating some of the boards. Prior to April 2001, there were 54 probation committees. These were largely autonomous organisations, and produced their own accounts under local authority rules and guidelines. The accounts were not consolidated by the Home Office. The accounts for 2000–01 also included the cost of the Family Court Welfare Service, which transferred out of the Probation Service on 1 April 2001 and is therefore not included in the costs for 2001–02 and 2002–03.

Rape/Sexual Offences Helpline

Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when the national helpline for victims of rape and sexual offences will be operational. [146769]

Paul Goggins: Plans for the national rape helpline are currently being developed and this matter is under consideration.

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Sex Offender Orders

Mr. Oaten: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many offenders are subject to sex offender orders; and how many sex offender orders have been granted in each year since 1999. [143388]

Paul Goggins: Sex Offenders Orders (SOOs) came into force on 1 December 1998 under the Crime and Disorder Act and were subsequently amended by the Police Reform Act 2002. There is no centrally held record of the number of offenders currently the subject of a SOO. However, a SOO has effect for a period not less than five years and can only be discharged before the end of this period with the consent of the police and the defendant. In addition, an individual may only be subject to one SOO at any one time. Therefore the number of SOOs granted by the courts may be used as an estimate to the number of offenders currently subject to such orders.

Since 2001, statistics on the number of SOOs have been collated under the Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (MAPPA). On 15 September this year, I made a Written Statement to the House announcing the publication of the 2002–03 MAPPA Annual Reports, copies of which I placed in the Library.

Statistics in MAPPA annual reports show that in the period 2002–03, 91 orders were granted. In the period 2001–02, 81 orders were granted.

Between 1 December 1998 and 31 March 2001, it is estimated that a total of 92 SOOs were made.

Child Protection

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps are being taken to ensure that all relevant Inspectorates implement Recommendation 2.15 of the Joint Chief Inspectors' report on Arrangements to Safeguard Children. [146289]

Paul Goggins: The three relevant Home Office Inspectorates are Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation. I am not able to comment on action by other Inspectorates.

Inspection activity is currently being undertaken by the Home Office Inspectorates in respect of relevant aspects of recommendation 2.15 of the joint Chief Inspectors' report, as follows:

(a) In relation to young offender institutions, inspection of child protection arrangements is a central part of each inspection by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons of Young Offender Institutions and Immigration Removal Centres holding children and young people aged under 18 years. Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons also advises Her Majesty's Prison Service on children's safeguarding matters, for example supporting a recent review of safeguarding arrangements in all Young Offender Institutions holding children. The inspectorate also undertakes joint inspection of Secure Training Centres with the Social Service Inspectorate.

(b) In relation to the impact of domestic violence on children:

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(c) In relation to the work of Youth Offending Teams (YOTs), a joint inspection programme of YOTs is under way, led by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation with involvement from Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons (along with four other inspectorates). The methodology has been designed to ensure that children's safeguarding issues are covered specifically from early in 2004.

More generally, alongside the specific work above, the Government have put in place arrangements to commission from the Chief Inspectors of services involved with children a joint report on children's safeguards every three years. The next report is due in 2005, A Steering Group involving nine Inspectorates or other regulatory bodies and led by the Social Services Inspectorate has been established to prepare for this.

It is intended that the aim of the report will be:

The themes and subject areas identified have been chosen to ensure that each of the issues highlighted in recommendation 2.15 of the last report is covered. Much of the inspection work will relate to cross-cutting issues between agencies.

Vulnerable Witnesses

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will assess the effectiveness of the guidance on vulnerable and intimidated witnesses under the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999. [146290]

Paul Goggins: Comprehensive guidance about vulnerable or intimidated witnesses (VIWs) was issued to practitioners in January 2002. There are no current plans to review this guidance.

Rules of Court relating to Special Measures Directions under the 1999 Act came into force on 24 July 2002. These rules are now being reviewed to improve their effectiveness and it is expected that amending rules will be issued in the spring.

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Individual issues of effectiveness are considered as they arise by the national VIW steering group which meets regularly.

Sexual Assault Referral Centres

Vera Baird: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) whether it is his policy that sexual assault referral centres should be at hospitals; [146765]

Paul Goggins: The Government are currently considering ways in which further support may be provided to victims of sexual crime. This objective may be achieved through the use of Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs); rape crisis and other counselling and support services; national or local telephone helplines; or some combination of these. We are looking at all the options as part of the work being undertaken to implement the national strategy for victims and witnesses, which was published in July 2003.

An Inter Departmental Ministerial Group (IDMG) on Sexual Offending has been set up. It comprises representation from the Home Office, Department of Health, Department for Education and Skills, Department for Work and Pensions, Department for Constitutional Affairs, Law Officers' Department, Department of Trade and Industry and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. The group will focus on: prevention, protection, and support; taking forward the implementation of the Sexual Offences Act; and promoting an effective, joined up approach to tackling sexual offending. The Inter Departmental Ministerial Group will consider provisions for victims of sexual offences, including issues around the development and funding of SARCs throughout England and Wales.

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The Home Office has funded research into three existing SARCs: St. Mary's, Reach and Star. The interventions, which were funded from July 2000 to the end of March 2003, included: training a forensic nurse to conduct forensic examinations; an intervention to help reduce attrition; and an intervention to support young victims of sexual violence. An independent evaluation of these interventions and of the overall services of the three SARCs has now been completed and the findings are due to be published in late spring 2004.

No directive has been issued to the police or health trusts on the role that they ought to play in the establishment of SARCs. The research findings and the Inter Departmental Ministerial Group will inform future policy on the development and funding of SARCs, including the development of good practice guidance. This will draw on the experience of existing SARC managers and victims.

Many existing SARCs are based at hospitals and the police have worked closely with health trusts in their establishment. However, different models of SARC will be best suited to different areas and the needs of the local community. Funding of existing SARCs has been negotiated and agreed locally, in most cases between the police and local health authority. The cost of establishing and running a SARC will vary according to the model.

The Home Office recently made funds available to support the development of SARCs. In September all police authorities were invited to bid for this funding. Grant offers are being finalised and an announcement will follow shortly.

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