A view from the small and medium charity sector
A missed opportunity
I work for a regional charity, but spent over 15 years working in Probation. Initially I thought TR would be an opportunity to bring the best of charities to work with the Probation Service. If I’m honest, I thought about 20% - 30% of the Probation Service would be put out to tender and we, charities, would bring in more than 20% - 30% of resources.
In 2010 the charity I work for had developed at no cost to the Probation Service a service for those serving less than 12 month, it worked brilliantly with the support of the local probation services and the police. There were lots of positive PR in the papers and praise from the people who were using the service. I thought TR would be the opportunity to develop this type of innovative service.
We signed up for TR and I started going to meetings on next steps. However, as I attended these meetings I began to realise that some of the people involved in TR didn’t understand what they were selling.
Firstly, at these meetings about PbR, it seems that unless the Prime succeeds then Tier 2/3 don’t get paid. It felt like heads they win tails you lose. Primes stood a significantly better chance of getting paid than Tier 2/3s
Prime achieves target
Prime Paid Y/N
Tier 2/3 achieves target
Tier 2/3 Paid Y/N
The more meetings I went to, the more depressing it became. I was truly shocked when I heard a former CPO of Probation criticise their old staff for lack of innovation and drive! Of course he was selling a bright new world for his new company. Caseloads of 100 clients and staff being paid circa £20k per annum were bandied about and how similar Probation was to Job Centres. When I heard about BIONIC I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry.
I gave up on TR and thought this is going to be a disaster which is going to cost someone their life. We, as a charity, washed our hands of TR and left the process.
As someone who was heavily involved in the development of the Domestic Violence Perpetrators Programme in the Probation Service, I was shocked to hear about the split in the supervision of DV perpetrators and the potential costs to vulnerable women. This is not about money, this is about life and death.
So, with private CRCs coming on line shortly, were does that leave the charity I work for and the small local charities? I suspect a significant number of the small charities will go to the wall. The criminal justice system will lose their experience, knowledge and generosity of spirit. The charity I work for will watch the CRC in action, but any ideas of working in partnership will be viewed with great suspicion.
Why would our well respected charity want to put its reputation at risk by becoming involved with multi-national companies who have no idea about the complexity or risk of the work they are taking on? How could we go to Trusts that currently fund our work and say “please give us some more money so we can work with this huge multi-national company so they can make a profit?” or give information on reporting of their clients to this charity to the CRC so they can claim their PbR bonus!
There is life after probation. I left probation a number of years ago, but spent 15 great years in probation. Looking around at the small and medium sized charities that are working in this sector and find the passion, commitment and dedication I found in my 15 years in probation. Look at social services and see someone that rates your great skills and abilities.
The most important thing for me is what will this charity do about ex-offenders. We will watch the CRCs fail and we will slowly build up a network of charities to work with ex-offenders. We will offer our services because this is what we do, not what we are paid for.
I also expect that at some point within the next ten years, after a number of tragic avoidable deaths, someone will say you know what we need? A national probation service and we will begin again.