Criminals' childcare fees paid by public

TAX-payers in Suffolk are shelling out for child minding costs for criminals carrying out unpaid work or undertaking drug treatment orders, it can be revealed today.

TAX-payers in Suffolk are covering child minding costs for criminals carrying out unpaid work or undertaking drug treatment orders, it can be revealed today.

Suffolk Probation has forked out nearly £11,000 in the last five years to pay for offenders' children to be looked after.

The service is responsible for convicts who have been released from prison on licence and those carrying out community orders - including unpaid work sentences - made by judges and magistrates.

Probation chiefs spent just £1,278 on childcare in 2003/04, but by 2006/07, that figure had leapt to £2,990.

A spokesman for Suffolk Probation said such payments represented a tiny percentage of the organisation's annual budget.

“Suffolk Probation Area will consider reimbursing childcare costs of offenders if they are unable to make arrangements using their own family and social networks,” he said. “This happens very rarely.

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“It is usually offenders suffering great difficulties in their lives - typically mothers who are trying to deal with entrenched drug abuse problems.

“These payments represent a small proportion of our annual budget - less than 0.03 per cent over the past five years.

“We consider this to be a vital investment if it can help vulnerable people avoid the potentially tragic consequences of drug abuse and offending.

“Our aim, in giving this support, is to ensure that children are properly protected, and that those under our supervision are able to access the services they need and complete the punishments ordered by the courts.”

Should tax payers have to meet the costs of criminals' childcare fees? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Year Amount Spent Percentage of Budget

2003/04 £1,278 0.015%

2004/05 £1,936 0.021%

2005/06 £2,966 0.029%

2006/07 £2,990 0.028%

2007/08 £1,813 0.017%