Friday, 29 July 2016

Big Ideas

It's generally accepted (as predicted on this blog) that the voluntary sector has basically been shafted by TR and are still painfully coming to terms with this situation, as are the rest of us of course. But this sector, along with the commercial sector, are nothing if not resourceful and they don't intend to get caught out in relation to the next big idea, that of prison reform. They've developed a powerful lobby group in the form of Clinks and they're currently hard at work behind the scenes doing their best to influence MoJ and NOMS thinking. 

Before that though, here's a reminder of the situation in relation to TR:-   

Change and Challenge
The voluntary sector’s role in Transforming Rehabilitation

TrackTR is a partnership project between Clinks, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and the University of Birmingham’s Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC). 

The intention of trackTR is to build a picture of the voluntary sector’s experiences of the changes to probation services brought about under the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, and the impact this has had on their services, their organisations and the people they support.

Key findings 

The information received has informed key findings, representing the views of those voluntary sector organisations that replied to the survey and those who attended the consultation event. 

1 / The pace of change is slow The changes to probation services are taking a long time to embed. Given the scale of reform this is not entirely surprising but the pace of change has still been much slower than many anticipated. The pace of change is reported to be curbing investment in the voluntary sector’s rehabilitation and resettlement services, meaning that services run by the voluntary sector are vulnerable and at a greater risk of closure. 

2 / Voluntary sector involvement in supply chains appears low Only one quarter of the 151 voluntary sector organisations that responded to our survey reported being funded through a CRC’s supply chain. Of those that are being funded through supply chains 70% are delivering pre-existing services. The organisations that are in supply chains are disproportionately larger voluntary sector organisations, with very few smaller or medium sized organisations represented. However, the contribution of voluntary sector organisations outside of supply chains to rehabilitation and resettlement outcomes is likely to be considerable. Half of the voluntary organisations outside of supply chains still receive and accept referrals from CRCs and the NPS, whilst over twothirds receive referrals directly from prisons. 

3 / Poor communication between probation services and the voluntary sector is damaging local relationships The voluntary sector’s relationships with CRCs and the NPS are being negatively affected by a lack of communication about future strategy, service development and commissioning opportunities. Furthermore, many voluntary organisations report a mixture of confusion and uncertainty about what services are being offered through CRCs and the NPS.

4 / The NPS needs to work more effectively with the voluntary sector Only one organisation responding to our survey had a direct funding relationship with the NPS. We heard that the ‘rate card’ system limits strategic engagement with the voluntary sector, restricts collaboration as well as innovation and increases the cost of services to the NPS. 

5 / The quality of services and the outcomes for service users require close monitoring Many voluntary sector organisations could not say whether Transforming Rehabilitation had negatively or positively impacted on services or service users, possibly because the transition to new approaches is still underway. However, those that had seen a change were more likely to report it as negative rather than positive; in some cases considerably more likely. Additionally, only 3 in 10 organisations funded by CRCs to deliver services in supply chains felt that the level of funding they received allowed them to deliver a high quality service. 

6 / There is anxiety about current and future funding and sustainability Although most voluntary sector organisations report that their funding for rehabilitation and resettlement services hasn’t been impacted as of yet, there is growing anxiety about the sustainability of services and evidence that the situation needs monitoring. Those outside of CRC supply chains are more likely to believe that their services are unsustainable. Organisations also report that a lack of information about what services the CRCs and NPS are commissioning and/or delivering is putting other funding sources at risk, particularly local authorities and independent charitable funders.


Determined to get a better deal in relation to prison reform, Clinks have set up specialist groups such as RR3:-


The Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3) exists with the purpose of building a strong and effective partnership between the voluntary sector, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), and the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) to reduce re-offending. The chair for the group and its secretariat is provided by Clinks.

and they've just published a discussion document full of lots of good ideas:-

Prison reform and the voluntary sector

The Reducing Re-offending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3) was asked in February 2016 by the Minister for Prisons and Probation, Andrew Selous, to provide information on how the voluntary sector can be engaged in the government’s programme of prison reform and contribute to reducing reoffending. This paper sets out key issues and ideas that we believe will support the voluntary sector’s engagement with the prison reform programme. 

The issues and ideas set out in this paper make reference to two recent Clinks publications: a practical guide to prisons engaging the voluntary sector and a discussion paper that explores what a ‘good’ rehabilitative prison could look like.

This paper is split into three sections: the role of the voluntary sector in supporting rehabilitation; engaging the sector in closing and opening prisons; and engagement with new Reform Prisons.

Summary of Ideas

1 The engagement of the voluntary sector primarily needs to happen locally unless national or high volume services are being commissioned. This requires that the sector is engaged pro-actively by relevant criminal justice agencies; this will require some human resource to engage the sector. 

2 The principles of desistance should be built in to the heart of any reform programme to better understand how and why people move away from crime and stop re-offending. 

3 The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) can build on approaches such as the Young Review’s Independent Advisory Group to consult with key experts in the voluntary sector throughout the design and implementation of the prison reform programme, in order to ensure that the distinct needs of those in the CJS with protected characteristics or requiring specialist support are met. 

4 The MoJ and NOMS should work closely with the Advisory Board on Female Offenders and the RR3 Women’s Reference Group to develop and implement this approach. 

5 NOMS should provide good advance notice of decommissioning processes, with clear information about timelines provided to relevant voluntary sector organisations. This should also be accessible to service users and their families. 

6 NOMS should conduct an impact assessment of each prison closure on voluntary sector organisations and their service users to ensure any decommissioning of prisons supports the managed exit of important rehabilitation services. 

7 When a site is earmarked for potential development, Clinks could map the existing work taking place by the voluntary sector in that area, to provide the MoJ and NOMS with information about stakeholders for engagement. 

8 NOMS, with support from Clinks, could bring together the voluntary sector working in a specific area where a new prison will be built, along with the local community, and involve them at the earliest opportunity in the process of building a new prison.

9 The MoJ and NOMS should ensure new prisons are built in areas that are easily accessible to local communities and have good transport links, as well as suitable accommodation for visitors. 

10 The MoJ and NOMS should consult the voluntary sector, prison staff, prisoners and their families about the design of any new prison during initial planning stages. It is essential that any consultation process involves consistent feedback from officials so individuals are kept informed and engaged with the process. 

11 The MoJ and NOMS should ensure that during consultation about prison design the location and accessibility of services delivered by the voluntary sector is considered. This needs to take into account the needs of all prisoners, including those who experience physical disabilities or belong to other equalities groups. 

12 The MoJ and NOMS, in partnership with the voluntary sector organisations which are embedded in their local communities, should consider how to ensure the community is able to access the prison. 

13 The MoJ and NOMS should include key times for consultation with the voluntary sector within timelines for the prison reform programme, and allow for the continued input of expertise and feedback from the voluntary sector during the design and implementation of the prison reform programme. 

14 Clinks could support the MoJ and NOMS to facilitate the meaningful engagement of the voluntary sector as a strategic partner for Executive Governors and senior management staff. Clinks can bring together a working group of key voluntary sector leaders, representative of small, medium, large and national single-issue organisations working across varying geographical areas, to support Executive Governors in understanding and working with the voluntary sector. 

15 Executive Governors should provide flexible but systematic routes for voluntary sector organisations to share intelligence about emerging needs, pitch ideas and advocate for service improvements. The MoJ and NOMS should provide appropriate oversight of this process to ensure that issues raised by the voluntary sector are addressed.

16 Executive Governors could seek to engage the voluntary sector in strategic processes and decision-making within the prison. This can be done in a number of ways, as outlined in Clinks’ guide The rehabilitative prison: Good engagement with the voluntary sector. 

17 The MoJ and NOMS should work with Clinks to conduct a stakeholder mapping exercise for each Reform Prison area in order to determine what voluntary sector expertise and delivery already exists to support people in contact with the CJS inside prison, in the community and through the gate. This will prevent both the duplication and loss of existing provision, as well as ensuring that the prison reform programme actively contributes to better joined-up working in local areas. 

18 Executive Governors could work in partnership with the voluntary sector to undertake a needs assessment of the people in the prison and identify key priorities for commissioning. This could be done in a number of ways, such as Executive Governors producing a document similar to the Police and Crime Plans produced by Police and Crime Commissioners which identifies strategic priorities over a specific period of time, or by feeding into the local authority’s Joint Strategic Needs Assessment. 

19 Executive Governors need to consider the impact of contract size on market diversity, and where possible break contracts into smaller lots. The MoJ and NOMS should be alive to the challenges experienced by smaller organisations in engaging with the prime/subcontractor model and mechanisms such as payment by results. 

20 Prison staff should gather information upon an individual’s reception to the prison about which voluntary sector organisations they are already in contact with and contact them as early as possible. The importance of gathering this information should be considered in any review of the Basic Custody Screening Tool.

21 Executive Governors should encourage and facilitate increased voluntary sector access to the prison to support someone in their desistance process. Practical guidance on how to achieve this is published in Clinks’ The rehabilitative prison: Good engagement with the voluntary sector. This should include a review of the security vetting process to ensure there are no unnecessary barriers to maximising the contribution of people with personal experience of the CJS. 

22 Executive Governors could explore options for increased communication and skillsharing between prison staff and voluntary sector staff. This would enable an improved understanding of each other’s roles and allow voluntary sector staff to offer better support to staff within the prison. Strategies to develop this could include having a named voluntary sector/community/stakeholder co-ordinator within the prison; running joint training programmes for prison and voluntary sector staff; and agreeing information-sharing protocols between prison and voluntary sector staff. 

23 The MoJ, NOMS and Executive Governors could utilise the networks and knowledge of the voluntary sector to provide access to community services and ways to engage the community with the prison (such as through volunteering). This should include increased use of Release On Temporary Licence (ROTL); increased opportunities for the public to access the prison; and increased opportunities for prisoners’ families to visit them in prison. 

24 The RR3 Special Interest Group on Commissioning Family Services could be engaged to discuss how the commissioning of family services is integrated into the prison reform programme, with the aim of providing good quality support for the families of people in contact with the CJS across the prison estate. 

25 The MoJ and NOMS should ensure that there is clear national oversight of the prison reform programme and robust mechanisms in place for failure to achieve outcomes.

26 A local accountability structure could be put in place for each Reform Prison to enable this, such as a board of governors comprising local stakeholders in rehabilitation and resettlement and including voluntary sector representation. This structure should have direct links to the MoJ and NOMS to ensure that any developing problems are addressed. 

27 Executive Governors could seek to engage with other already existing local structures such as Local Criminal Justice Boards, Police and Crime Commissioners, local authority forums, and other community and voluntary networks. They could also refer and feed into local plans relating to community safety, such as Joint Strategic Needs Assessments, Police and Crime Plans and any plans for justice devolution. 

28 The MoJ and NOMS should issue clear guidance to Executive Governors on the involvement of the voluntary sector and wider community in setting local outcomes. This will ensure that outcomes are not only appropriate to each individual prison context, but are also outward facing, linking the prison and community to support the long-term process of desistance.


  1. Probation Officer29 July 2016 at 08:36

    Desperate. It irks me when so-called voluntary/charity organisations resort to begging, manipulation and pressure to grab the work of paid professionals. I'm sick of hearing that volunteers/charities are more effective than probation officers either because they work for free or are ex-offenders. The fact is that they are not more effective and their approach is no different from BHS trying to poach business from M&S to avoid closure.

    1. They are cheaper though. Remember, you don't care about the QUALITY of the intervention if you don't receive it but do pay for it. You care about the COST to your budget. If the failures of the system you pay for can be externalised as a cost elsewhere (court charges, legal aid fees, prison costs, social services interventions) you give not a fu...damn. As an added bonus you get to report to the ministers that you are providing X + Y at the same cost that you used to provide X for (or better that you have "saved" Y on your budget).
      This is the crap we live through.

      Pina Colada

  2. Seriously do you think anyone in the third sector thinks that partnership with the MOJ is the land of milk and honey? Working in the third sector and being a former Probation Officer I know of no small or medium sized charity who have the slightest interest in working with the MOJ. The mega charities yes they would work with Pol Pot incorporated if they thought there was a profit in it.

    The Third Sector drivers who suggest these “partnerships or opportunities” are normally people indirectly funded by the MOJ, want consultancy work from the MOJ or want a knighthood as some point. Any thought of the charity I work for, a regional housing charity, getting involved with TR or new prisons project is laughable. Why would you trust anything the MOJ said?

    1. You have an excellent point and I wanted to add that there is a real tension between MOJ and NOMS too - the prison reform program will be played out with protagonists a lot less liberal and open minded than Probation Trusts ( who buckled at the first fight). NOMS is monolithic, intransigent and bureaucratic and when conjoined with MOJ , there is disaster writ large.

  3. I have seen that the voluntary sector is again to be lured into the prison reform process by the inducement of hard cash!
    There are funds for any voluntary sector provider who has a good idea about rehabilitating prisoners and anything up to £150,000 is available.
    You might think this sounds familiar , which it is , at the early stages of TR a similar offer was made.
    I predict there will be a rerun of the same lines again and again (perhaps not the leaving with £46 in the hand , since they haven't yet left!) to entice charity and volunteers into custodial work and ultimately with the same sorry outcome as TR did for them .

    Yet again , professional and sage observers will warn them off but I don not imagine they will listen

  4. Hmmm still nothing as per usual about the actual offender/prisoner/service user in all of this. When will people learn that involving the offender in every single aspect of what happens throughout their prison/probation journey will result in a better outcome. People always respond better to a programme or course of action that they have been consulted over and engaged in putting together than having others (no matter how well meaning) foist something on them. In other words, if you want buy in to whatever it is INVOLVE the offender from initial assessment all the way through. Plus stuff needs to be individually tailored to each offender and I see no evidence of that at all in the above. yes one size fits all is cheaper to roll out but if the goal is desistance then you need the individual approaches and it will save ££ in the long run.

  5. But WL et al are not interested in that! Just business and profit.