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Need joined-up thinking focusing on the offender for recovery to succeed

I would like to further the debate initiated by the suggestion that prisoners should have phones and televisions in their cells and to pick up on the comments in John Carnochan and Fergus McNeil's letters (Letters, January 31).

In my years as a parish minister in a priority area while also serving on public bodies tasked to address poverty, addiction and offending, there was never a shortage of good practice. It is not that we don't know what to do to address these problems, what is lacking is a connection between service providers and a willingness on their part to bolt-on that good practice to the next agency required for an individual's continued recovery. So-called revolving doors lie in the gap between one agency's good practice and the next in line. When a prisoner is released who is there to bolt-on to and carry them onto the next stage of recovery?

In the past few years partnerships have formed but they are either small and underfunded or large-scale, resulting in them becoming unwieldy with people who think they need to be there to represent their sector. This has the effect of stifling spontaneity, creativity and risk. There can be no creativity without risk and no risk without the possibility of failure. So risk is written out of the recovery programme.

The greatest inhibitor to society making progress on these issues is that too often the solutions for recovery are suggested by well-meaning middle-class individuals who think they know what should be good for the offender. What is needed is a circle of professional help around the person seeking to change their behaviour. This will involved a power shift away from the well-meaning professional to the person at the centre of the circle. This is person-centred care but no government can afford what is suggested by this approach without genuinely engaging with the recovering person.

Another situation is the need to engage the population of Scotland in addressing these problems. Offending, addiction, homelessness, worklessness and much else do not happen in a vacuum. The whole population must becomes concerned enough to own the problem and become a movement for change. This is what is missing in the debate about an independent Scotland. To date the only people driving the debate are politicians, economic commentators, the media, business leaders, and activists. What kind of Scotland do we want to leave to our children and grandchildren?

John Matthews,

Chairman, The Glasgow Simon Community,

472 Ballater Street, Glasgow.

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