Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Third Sector Cry Foul (Again)

Another day and another report telling Rory Stewart what he doesn't want to hear - TR is an utter failure and needs urgent fixing. It became pretty obvious to the Third Sector some time ago that they were completely naive in believing all the rubbish spouted by Chris Grayling and his back-of-a-fag-packet plans for TR and not only haven't they made any money, they're subsidising the privateers

I have to say I have absolutely no sympathy for the once proud and much-respected charity and third sector, keen as they obviously were to jump into bed with the government in the greedy hope of picking up lucrative contracts. They were repeatedly warned at the time by this blog and have come to realise how royally-shafted they've been. All they can do is moan on a regular basis and hope Rory is tempted to shovel some money in their direction as part of a vain attempt at proving TR can be made to work.  


Since 2015, in response to feedback from our members and other voluntary sector organisations, Clinks have undertaken in-depth research into the voluntary sector’s experience of the changes to probation services brought about by the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms.

The project – a partnership between Clinks, National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) and the Third Sector Research Council (TSRC) - has tracked charities’ experiences of Transforming Rehabilitation by listening to organisations both directly and indirectly affected by this reform.

Our first report on the sector's experiences, 'Early doors' was launched in August 2015. Our second report 'Change & challenge' was launched in May 2016. In May 2018 we published the third and final report from our research: ‘Under represented, Under pressure, Under resourced’.

Our final report confirms that charities are underrepresented in the government’s £900m Transforming Rehabilitation programme. The voluntary sector’s services are under pressure and under resourced, and charitable funds are being used to deliver the quality of services we want and need from our probation services. The majority of the 132 voluntary organisations we heard from believe that their service users are suffering as a result.

Our final TrackTR report makes 11 recommendations that we believe can make a difference, and help us to understand what the next generation of probation services could look like.

Anne Fox, CEO of Clinks:
“On 1 February 2015 the Ministry of Justice heralded a new age for probation services, assuming that the 700 charities or social enterprises named in bids to run new probation services would be able to dramatically reduce reoffending rates. Three years on it’s clear these organisations have not been able to play their part. The handful of larger charities that were able to negotiate a deal with new probation services are concerned that services are under-funded and as a result the quality they are able to deliver is not as they would wish. Up and down the country, many charities, large and small, are using their charitable funds to support a stretched probation system. This approach can’t continue.”

Karl Wilding, Policy Director at NCVO:
“There are persistent structural problems with the design of Transforming Rehabilitation that mean the very organisations the probation system relies on are shut out and left in economically unsustainable positions, with an ultimately concerning outlook for those that rely on these services. This survey echoes the recent findings of the HM Inspectorate of Probation, that expert charities are increasingly excluded from the Transforming Rehabilitation programme. Today’s report makes practical, measured recommendations and we urge the government and charities to come together urgently to address them.”

Under represented, Under pressure, Under resourced: the voluntary sector’s role in Transforming Rehabilitation

Under represented, Under pressure, Under resourced is the third and final report in a series looking at the voluntary sector's role in Transforming Rehabilitation (you can also read the first report and second report). Clinks surveyed 132 voluntary sector organisations between February and April 2017 and gathered six in depth case studies. The survey results were analysed by the Third Sector Research Centre and by using the same questions posed in our 2015 survey we have been able to record changes over time.

As a result Clinks has identified seven key findings and made 11 recommendations that we believe can make a difference, and help us to understand what the next generation of probation services could look like.

Since 2015, in response to feedback from our members and other voluntary sector organisations, Clinks has led the tracktr partnership to undertake in-depth research into the voluntary sector’s experience of the changes to probation services brought about by the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. We have assessed the impact the reforms have had on organisations, the services they deliver, and the people they support; and will use the findings to advocate on behalf of the voluntary sector to government and to probation services run by the National Probation Service (NPS) and Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs).

Executive Summary

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) and the Open University’s Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership. 

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. 

Transforming Rehabilitation 

The Transforming Rehabilitation reforms have replaced the previous 35 Probation Trusts with a single National Probation Service (NPS), responsible for the management of high risk offenders; and 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) responsible for the management of low to medium risk offenders across England and Wales. The CRCs also have a new responsibility for supervising short sentence prisoners (those sentenced to less than 12 months in prison) after release. From 1 February 2015 the successful bidders in the competition for CRCs began to deliver probation services.

The government claimed that the role of the voluntary sector was central to the government’s promotion of the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. When the new CRC providers were announced, the Ministry of Justice stated that “75% of the 300 subcontractors named in the successful bids are voluntary sector or mutual organisations”. In our work we have found that the voluntary sector has not been central to these reforms, and that very few voluntary organisations have found themselves involved as subcontractors. 

The aims of trackTR 

Successful transformation: trackTR aims to support the improvement of services for people under probation supervision by advocating for the successful transformation of probation. We believe that includes the effective involvement of the voluntary sector in co-producing services and delivering better outcomes. 

Understanding the role of the voluntary sector: trackTR aims to understand what role the voluntary sector is undertaking to support the rehabilitation and resettlement of people under new and emerging probation services. 

Supporting the wider ecosystem of services: the voluntary sector supports a vast range of people in need across England and Wales, all of which add to the wider eco-system of services. TrackTR aims to gather the experience of the widest possible range of voluntary sector organisations working alongside probation services. 

Increasing transparency: trackTR aims to increase transparency, to shed light on which services are being commissioned from the voluntary sector by CRCs or the NPS. 

Informing procurement practice: the changes to probation under the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms represent one of the biggest public procurement exercises in recent times. TrackTR aims to support improvements in future procurement trends by listening to the views of the voluntary organisations involved. 


This report has been informed by three main sources of information.

A survey was designed to capture the views of voluntary organisations delivering rehabilitation and resettlement services in the criminal justice system (CJS). It was open between February and April 2017 and gathered the views of 132 voluntary organisations. The survey results were analysed by TSRC between May and December 2017. By using the same questions posed in our 2015 survey we have been able to record changes over time. 

Six in depth interviews were undertaken with six case study organisations. Clinks worked with the Open University to identify a diverse range of voluntary organisations and write up case studies of their experiences, based on a series of interviews.

Informal conversations with providers and policy makers were held over the course of the project to better understand the data we were receiving from the voluntary sector, and to place it in the context of wider changes to policy and practice. This includes a range of voluntary sector organisations, CRCs, the NPS and relevant government departments and agencies. 

Key findings and recommendations 

This survey has uncovered seven key findings, and we make 11 recommendations as a result. We still believe that all the recommendations made in our 2016 trackTR report, Change and challenge, remain relevant and require action to improve our probation services. This report’s key findings and recommendations are listed below. 

KEY FINDING 1: Voluntary sector involvement is low and reserved for larger organisations

Only 35% of the 132 organisations we heard from receive any funding from CRCs and only two organisations got any direct funding from the NPS. Voluntary organisations with an annual income of over £10 million were the only group more likely to be funded by a CRC than not. Smaller voluntary organisations are much less likely to be funded by probation despite their significant contribution to resettlement and rehabilitation services. Whilst much of this might be explained by a general under resourcing of probation services, many smaller organisations have not been engaged in any meaningful way by probation services. 

RECOMMENDATION 1: Provide transparency of supply chain partners 

CRCs and the NPS should publish, ideally on a quarterly basis, full details of their supply chains, including: the names and company/charity numbers of tier two and three providers; the amount of funding passed down to sub-contractors; a summary of the service being provided; and where appropriate the contribution that these organisations have made to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). 

RECOMMENDATION 2: HMPPS should conduct an annual audit of the supply chain

Contract managers in Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation service should conduct (or commission) an annual audit of the supply chain to assess the involvement of any organisations funded by CRCs and the NPS. The audit should collate anonymised feedback, assessing their experiences and look for good practice to share as well as poor practice to learn from. The audit’s findings should be made public. 

RECOMMENDATION 3: Involve the voluntary sector 

The Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Prison and probation service should work with Clinks, CRC owners, the NPS, and prisons to develop approaches to engage more voluntary organisations. These approaches should be tested in local areas and evaluated with a view to scaling them across England and Wales. 

KEY FINDING 2: The voluntary sector’s role in Probation services is unsustainable 

Just over a half of all respondents suggest a negative or very negative impact of TR on their organisations. Voluntary organisations suggested that probation services are under-funded, leading to lack of investment in rehabilitation and resettlement services and staff with high caseloads which are often unmanageable. Half of the voluntary sector-led services that are funded by CRCs say they are unsustainable, one in three think their funding agreement is at risk of failure before the end of the contract or within the next six months. One third of these services are subsidised by charitable reserves or other funding sources. Over half the voluntary organisations not funded by either a CRC or the NPS have subsidised their services with reserves or other funding sources. This is an unsustainable situation. Probation services delivered by voluntary organisations are under-funded and more investment is needed to ensure the health of the probation system.

RECOMMENDATION 4: The MoJ probation review must set out an acceptable level of services 

The Ministry of Justice are leading a ‘probation review’. This review must consider the services that probation services need to deliver and assess, with partners, an acceptable level of services to ensure quality and a suitable level of funding to ensure the service can be delivered. This must include an assessment of the services required to meet the needs of people with protected characteristics. 

KEY FINDING 3: The probation system relies on the work of voluntary organisations 

People under probation supervision are regularly supported by voluntary organisations, but these organisations are frequently not paid for by probation services. Up to 65% of voluntary organisations we surveyed are not funded by probation providers. These organisations regularly receive referrals from probation services and prisons. Up to 70% of these organisations think their services should be funded by the probation system.

RECOMMENDATION 5: Develop local provider networks 

As a minimum requirement, to nurture local partnerships, each CRCs and NPS region (preferably in collaboration) should develop a multi-agency network that brings together key partner organisations to inform the design and delivery of services for people under probation supervision. 

KEY FINDING 4: The rate card does not work for the NPS or the voluntary sector 

Current policy dictates that the NPS has to commission all services through a CRC’s ‘rate card’. This restricts the NPS’s ability to purchase services that support people under their supervision, limits their choice, and restricts their ability to engage strategically with stakeholders. This policy has actively discouraged voluntary sector engagement with the NPS and their service users. 

RECOMMENDATION 6: The ‘rate card’ system should be abandoned 

The rate card system has been shown not to work and should be abandoned. The NPS should have its own commissioning function that allows it to purchase appropriate services. It should not be restricted to using services listed on a CRCs ‘rate card’. This change should be supported by the Ministry of Justice’s Commissioning Directorate and its implementation supported by Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service working alongside the NPS to ensure a smooth transition. 

KEY FINDING 5: Voluntary organisations believe Transforming Rehabilitation has had a negative impact on their services and service users 

Worryingly 60% of the voluntary organisations we surveyed say that TR has had a negative or very negative impact on their service users. Very few suggest that the changes have been positive for either their organisation or people under probation supervision. 

RECOMMENDATION 7: Openly consult on changes to probation 

The Ministry of Justice should conduct an open consultation on the purpose and structure of probation services in 2018/19, ahead of the end of current contractual arrangements. The results should feed into the ongoing Ministry of Justice-led ‘probation review’. This should include consideration as to whether one single probation service may be a more efficient and/or effective delivery option. 

RECOMMENDATION 8: Assess quality through new research grants 

HM Inspectorate of Probation perform a vital function in assessing the quality of probation work. This should be complemented by more research into what ‘good’ looks like in probation services. The Ministry of Justice should support this development by setting up an annual grant fund for researchers to assess a broad range of rehabilitation and resettlement activities. The research papers should be published.

RECOMMENDATION 9: Collect and publish feedback from service users 

The Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service should develop (or commission) a mechanism to gather views from a representative sample of probation service users and their families to assess the state of services. This analysis should be published and used to improve services. 

KEY FINDING 6: A volume-based target driven culture is eroding partnerships 

The voluntary organisations that have the closest relationships with CRCs – those funded by them – have become increasingly pessimistic and negative. Many of the organisations we heard from do not believe that their ethos and values align with that of CRCs. Voluntary organisations blame the erosion of their relationship on unhelpful targets that are focused on volume and a lack of meaningful outcome-driven targets. 

RECOMMENDATION 10: Develop new targets and outcome measures 

The system of meeting volume targets needs reforming to provide greater emphasis on the quality of work delivered and what it achieves. A Ministry of Justice-convened working group should be established to assess current targets and outcome measures, with the aim of developing proposals for improved measures that could be adopted by CRCs, the NPS and other stakeholders. As a minimum requirement this working group should include representatives from the MoJ, HMPPS, HM Inspectorate of Probation, CRCs, the NPS, voluntary organisations, Police and Crime Commissioners and other statutory services with responsibility for health, housing and education or employment outcomes. 

KEY FINDING 7: Confusion about Transforming Rehabilitation could be leading to disinvestment 

TR has negatively affected the level of funding for voluntary sector-led rehabilitation and resettlement services. Many organisations say their ability to raise funding from other sources has been negatively impacted because there is a lack of clarity surrounding what services CRCs and the NPS should be funding. The fact that the probation system is now more complicated, caused by the split in probation services between the NPS and CRCs, was also given as a reason for some of the ongoing confusion. 

RECOMMENDATION 11: Clearly set out what probation services do 

The Ministry of Justice needs to produce clear and accessible public guidance on the roles and responsibilities of the main agencies involved in rehabilitation and resettlement, including CRCs, the NPS, and prisons.


This from the Introduction sums things up nicely:-

From 1 February 2015 the successful bidders in the competition for the CRCs began to deliver the programme, with new prison resettlement services (Through the Gate) starting from May 2015. The successful contractors were expected to build supply chains that consist of organisations from the public, private, and voluntary sectors through which they will subcontract delivery of some of their services.
The TR reforms have been under considerable scrutiny since their inception. The reforms have had significant attention from HM Inspectorate of Probation and the National Audit Office, various parliamentary Select Committees, unions, think tanks and a great number of voluntary organisations. Increasingly it has become evident that the reforms have not produced the improved practice or innovation that the original policy had intended to bring about. 

There are considerable concerns as to whether the level of funding for CRCs is adequate. This led the Ministry of Justice and HM Prison and Probation Services (HMPPS) to conduct a review of all CRC contracts which has led to further payments to all CRCs. There are also real questions about the quality of what is being offered to people under probation supervision, and the public that rely on this vital service. There are concerns about the quality of services delivered by CRCs, which need to be improved in a number of areas, particularly the quality of supervision and the delivery of ‘through the gate’ services - which support someone’s resettlement from prison and back into the community. Whilst the NPS has been shown to deliver adequately, there are also concerns about the quality of rehabilitative activity that it provides.


  1. I have little sympathy as you say they were all told often enough! Probation services are ruined by TR and require a radical solution not just chucking more money at greedy CRCs
    I'm in NPS and it's rubbish the quality of service is so poor it makes me sick to my stomach and I'm ashamed to admit that the clients are treated so badly. People seem to have forgot these are human beings and it's their lives we are messing with its all so sad

    1. I'm not that interested in the third sector sob stories. They haven't got what they wanted, but probation staff have lost what they had - like jobs and working practices that made sense. The third sector promoted cheaper delivery through volunteering, though fat salaries for their bosses. They slagged off public services, presenting themselves as the innovators who would let a thousand flowers bloom, bid candy to the rest of us who didn't fall for the seduction. They should have done their homework before they hitched their wagons to the TR train.

    2. Well said Nip and they are crying foul now when they voted for the tory policies that have them cornered in a contract process they cant make enough money from crime. That is the crime to all CRCs contract bid winners YOU ARE THE LOSERS ! Contract expiry coming soon as we are passed the half way mark and none of them can manage to put a stamp on an envelope.

  2. Probation privatised? I think not. Its merely been franchised, bundled up & handed over for £1 to private sector companies who are pocketing £bns of public funds, without fear of competition.

    One of the greatest Tory scams.

    1. Franchise - an authorization granted by a government or company to an individual or group enabling them to carry out specified commercial activities, for example acting as an agent for a company's products.

    2. But, as ever with this Tory shower, its the wrong way round. So the CRCs ought to be paying for the privelege of the opportunity & then pocketing profits AFTER covering their overheads, whereas they have been handed a ringfenced monopoly for £1 - with all assets inclusive - AND are being paid a premium by the govt, as well as charging for services.

      How can they possibly lose?

      The only losers are those who had no choice, i.e. (1) service users (2) staff (3) tax payers.

      Charity sector voted in & lost. Tough shit, guys. I'm with JB, no sympathy for the bid candy, the greedy, the dishonest, the sneaky, the two-faced or the sleeping partners (literally & figuratively).

  3. Found this archived on the web:

  4. Private enterprise and the third sector are pretty much the same animal. They're both happy to take money from anywhere regardless of what impact it may have on others. The third sectors involvement with the governments work programme demonstrates where their ethics lay when theres money to be had.
    A big problem with the third sector selling services to private probation companies is that the private companies dictate how those services are delivered. Its my way or no way.
    I think that many organisations operating under the banner of the "third sector", should really be redefined as businesses and not be allowed to hide behind charitable status.


    1. Yes agreed getafix - Third sector is one of those orwellian nonsense terms where the meaning is changed so the original intent is lost.

      There is nothing wrong with charity or volunteering, when it is aimed at meeting needs and raising money from diverse sources not starting from seeking contracts with funders.

      Sadly some of the decent charities can get sucked into the whole sorry mess especially when the business of highly paid executives comes into the issue.

  5. Whatever happened to our leaders. Once upon a time there was a group of Chief Probation Officers who, whilst deferent to their Political Ministry did on occasion, in their balanced 'read between the lines' way, speak their mind on behalf of the profession. Whilst various organisations are lobbying and positioning on behalf of various interests within the wider Criminal Justice System, a Probation voice, bar NAPO who are somewhat neutered, is absent regarding the next generation of Probation services. For example, what is the position of the Chief Executives of the National Probation Service, do they have a combined position and as Chief Executives leading their businesses do they have the freedom to express it? Clearly the Voluntary Sector do.

    1. YES what did happen to ACOP?

      One of their admireers Lord Ramsbottom wrote this in 2008: -

      "For over 100 years the probation service has had a proud record for the quality and quantity of its rehabilitation work, for which it earned and enjoyed an international reputation. I well remember, on being appointed chief inspector of prisons, being contacted almost at once by the late Sir Graham Smith and Julia Roberts, chief probation officer for Herefordshire and chairman of the Association of Chief Officers of Probation (Acop) to suggest that we meet, which we did.

      Indeed it was through Acop that I was able to meet with other chief officers around the country, and learn about the importance of aftercare in the community to build on what work might have been done with and for prisoners while in custody."

      He was writing just as ACOP reformed as PCA - it seems his optimism was ill-founded

    2. Thank you, a timely reminder of what has been lost. I only hope their is a Phoenix that might rise from the ashes.

  6. Third sector, charities, whatever you want to call it, has a real and valuable role to play, and at its best when it is local and driven by the commitment of the people doing the work. Probation had a track record of working collaboratively and constructively with partners of all sizes and shapes, THAT is best worked up from the ground up, driven by Probation staff who see the value and potential, and make the relationships work. Top down, large scale contracting of quasi-charitable business is utterly barren.