The Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3) is a formal voluntary sector advisory group to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), consisting of 16 senior voluntary sector leaders. In this blog, Anne Fox, Chief Executive at Clinks and chair of the RR3, gives an update on the work of the group and how it has adapted to the changing policy environment of the last few months.
Advocacy in the context of Covid-19
All of us involved in influencing government policy have been forced to adapt to the extraordinary environment we find ourselves in. When the RR3 met in March 2020, we agreed a programme of work for the coming year. By the time the group met again in June 2020, that plan needed to be ripped up, and our energy and capacity was instead focussed on the voluntary sector’s work in, and survival beyond, Covid-19.
In response, we set up a special interest group on Covid-19 to channel advice to the government on how best to protect people in contact with the criminal justice system and to protect the future sustainability of the voluntary sector. This group consists of RR3 members, plus additional senior leaders in the voluntary sector co-opted for their specialist expertise relevant to the challenges we were hearing about. In the wake of the crisis, the group met for eleven consecutive weeks, providing weekly recommendation papers to senior officials in the MoJ and HMPPS. Though no longer meeting weekly, we continue to convene meetings of this group on specific issues and thematic priorities.
Engagement with the government in this time has been challenging and communication from the government to the voluntary sector and the people it supports often hasn’t flowed smoothly. The establishment of the HMPPS/MoJ Third Sector Taskforce, to help better coordinate information flows, has been a welcome step in addressing this.
Informing the recovery process
The HMPPS/MoJ Third Sector Taskforce commissioned the RR3 to produce two in-depth reports to help inform the recovery of the criminal justice system. We are taking forward the recommendations of the first paper, which focuses on the recovery of voluntary sector services in the criminal justice system, with different teams in the MoJ and HMPPS. The second paper, on the sustainability of the voluntary sector in the context of Covid-19, has been sent to officials. We are hugely grateful to organisations for feeding in to both papers through Clinks’ surveys, network events and specific engagement with the recovery paper led by Russell Webster and via members of the RR3.
I have accepted an invitation from Jo Farrar, CEO at HMPPS, to join the HMPPS Recovery Independent Advisory Forum on behalf of the voluntary sector in criminal justice. The forum is attended by HMPPS senior leaders and external stakeholders. The forum provides an opportunity to influence the strategic approach of HMPPS to Covid-19 recovery. I presented the RR3’s paper on recovery at the latest meeting on 22nd July.
The RR3 has supported evidence submitted in a paper to the government by voluntary organisations providing specific support to black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) individuals. The evidence sets out five areas for action that HMPPS should take in order to support BAME led and BAME focussed organisations in the context of recovery. The RR3 has given its full support to the paper in a letter to Jo Farrar, and we are continuing that conversation to ensure the issues raised are addressed.
The RR3 has also given detailed feedback on a series of draft Exceptional Delivery Models (EDMs) for prisons. EDMs give detailed guidance to prison leaders, as regimes are gradually lifted, to support them in implementing the National Framework for Prison Regimes and Services. The RR3 will continue to provide feedback on EDMs in both prison and probation when they come under review over the coming months.
EDMs can be shared by email on request with voluntary sector organisations working alongside the prison service who want to understand how the easing of restrictions will affect their operations. To request an EDM, please email email@example.com.
We will continue to encourage HMPPS and the MoJ to be as transparent as possible and to endeavour to make all operational guidance and essential information publicly accessible wherever possible.
Probation reform and the RR3
In addition to the pandemic, the voluntary sector is also grappling with the major programme of probation reform. Alongside Clinks’ extensive work to influence the probation reform programme, and provide support to the voluntary sector, the RR3 has also kept a close eye on developments:
- The RR3 quarterly meetings in March and June 2020 focussed on probation reform, both of which were attended by Lucy Frazer QC MP, Minister of State. You can read the minutes from the June meeting here, which was held shortly after the announcement to cancel the procurement process for probation delivery partners.
- The RR3 also set up a special interest group on probation reform, and convened a meeting to advise HMPPS and the MoJ on how best to manage the commissioning process for the probation Dynamic Framework in the context of Covid-19. A summary of the meeting can be found here.
- The Covid-19 SIG held a meeting with HMPPS to discuss issues related to the management of Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC) contracts in the context of Covid-19. The meeting was attended by organisations who collectively held contracts with at least 16 of the 21 CRCs. You can read the notes from that meeting here.
Further announcements and upcoming work
We are delighted to announce the appointment of Laura Seebohm to the large organisation specialist seat on the RR3. Laura is the Executive Director of External Affairs at Changing Lives and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the board. Laura fills the vacancy left by Mike Pattinson who has moved on from Change, Grow, Live and made a brilliant contribution to the group. Laura was appointed following an open recruitment process, and we were again delighted at the level of interest from senior leaders in joining the RR3 and the quality of talent and expertise we could select from. You can see the full list of RR3 members and their specialist expertise here.
At its next quarterly meeting on September 10th, the RR3 will likely discuss sentencing policy in light of the upcoming sentencing white paper. Notes from the meeting will be published in due course.
The RR3 is not the only way in which Clinks works with the voluntary sector to influence policy and practice change but it has a particular role to play at this time. We are hugely grateful to voluntary sector leaders who sit on the RR3 and take part in special interest groups. We are committed to transparency in our work and welcome feedback which can help us to work in the best interests of the sector’s work with and on behalf of people in the criminal justice system and their families.
Photo: © Andrew Aitchison