What will Transforming Rehabilitation mean in reality? That question has occupied much thought and time at Clinks. Our recent state of the sector survey told the story of a voluntary sector that was spending a lot of time and resources to engage with this landmark reform, yet they were still unclear about what role they would play, if any. We must also ask what the changes could mean for the vulnerable people in our Criminal Justice System, and how changes to rehabilitation and resettlement services will impact on them.
Unfurling the complexity
Transforming Rehabilitation is complex. We have seen Probation split into two new entities, Community rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and the National Probation Service (NPS). This in itself is a huge organisational re-structure, separating out the offender management of those who pose a high risk of harm to the public (managed by the NPS), and those that pose a low-medium risk of harm (managed by the CRC).
The introduction of the Offender Rehabilitation Act on 1st February 2015 (read Clinks' briefing here), brought with it the extension of supervision to approximately 45,000 additional offenders a year who are released from short prison sentences of less than 12 months. It has introduced a new range of ‘rehabilitation activity requirements’ that are at the disposal of the courts, and are to be implemented by CRCs and the NPS. The act also put into law a requirement that the Secretary of State for Justice comply with the public sector equality duty under the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that supervision and rehabilitation services meet the specific needs of women offenders.
Furthermore, a re-organisation of the prison estate introduced ‘resettlement prisons’ where people will be transferred to an establishment near to their home address for (at least) the last 3 months of their sentence. There they will be provided with rehabilitation and ‘through the gate’ (TTG) resettlement services. The rehabilitation services in these prisons are designated to be provided by CRCs and the NPS respectively. This fundamentally changes who is responsible for the provision of rehabilitation services in our prisons.
The amorphous role of the voluntary sector
As with any major reform of this kind, it takes time for the changes to crystallise and become public. The Ministry of Justice advocated for partnerships between private companies, voluntary sector organisation, and mutuals to bid into deliver CRCs. In the early stages of this large scale commissioning exercise we still thought that members like CRI, Catch 22, Turning Point, Home Group, or Shaw Trust might be at the helm of successful bids, but that has proved not to be the case.
On awarding the Transforming Rehabilitation contracts it was announced that “75% of the 300 subcontractors named in the successful bids are voluntary sector or mutual organisations, putting them at the forefront of offender rehabilitation”. After this announcement was made many questions remained; what would these organisations do, where, when, and how would they be funded? At Clinks we knew that pro-active investigation was required to better understand the emerging realities across England and Wales.
The complexity that I’ve set out inevitably means that this will create a period of uncertainty, as well as opportunity, for Clinks’ members. Many of those organisations will need support, and some have already accessed our Legal Support Helpline to help understand complicated contractual issues. Others have contacted us directly to talk about their emerging new role, or some potential difficulties in maintaining their existing role and funding. But at the moment we are only hearing anecdotal evidence that doesn’t allow us to effectively identify good and poor practice. This needs to change.
What we need to do
In order to push past some of this complexity we need to gather evidence as to what is happening locally. This has led to our partnership with NCVO and the launch today of a yearlong programme to monitor the role of voluntary sector providers in and alongside Transforming Rehabilitation. Starting with an initial survey, we want you to share your experience so that we can develop a picture of the role that the voluntary sector is playing. This will be followed by two further surveys, one this summer and a third in 2016. The results will enable us to identify emerging good practice, as well as concerns, and lead to clear recommendations for government and other key stakeholders.
Transforming Rehabilitation is a hugely important reform, not only for the voluntary sector, but most importantly for all the vulnerable people who need appropriate support that aids their rehabilitation and resettlement. The first survey will only take five minutes to complete so please take the time to fill it out if your organisation is either directly or indirectly affected. We’ve also set up a special email address for organisations that want to raise concerns. All your information will be kept strictly confidential and no organisation will be named or otherwise identified in the reports.
Please also read the blog posted by Nick Davies at NCVO who will be working with Clinks to help make this project a success. If you have any comments please post them below.