Clinks’ Area Development Team share their personal reflections on how local organisations have responded during the pandemic, and what we’ve been hearing from people attending our network meetings.
Working with voluntary organisations supporting people in the criminal justice system during the pandemic has been a humbling and heartwarming experience. When Covid-19 struck the UK we quickly realised that there would be significant challenges for our sector. As the cases grew, Clinks staff adapted to home based working, where we felt able to support the sector from a place we can better ensure we are safe and well. One of our aims has been to support the sector to come together and cope with the crisis. The response from organisations has been truly inspiring – we’ve seen the resilience and agility of the sector came shining through.
Whilst you were busy dealing with moving staff to working from home and adapting your services to this strange new world, you have still found the time to engage with us and each other to problem solve and create the feedback loops so needed during this crisis. This feedback enables us to communicate the challenges you are facing to policy makers, including the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), allowing us to challenge and influence government decision making.
At our regional criminal justice network meetings you’ve told us of your frustrations – for example the furlough scheme has been confusing, in particular for those with mixed incomes. For organisations based in prisons, you have literally been shut out and have felt the communication between prisons and community has been, at times, slow and frustrating whilst also understanding that prisons themselves have been dealing with the crisis in the best way they could. We know how much effort was put into schemes such as the early release scheme which, due to operational issues, (for example most prisoners eligible for the early release scheme also being eligible for Home Detention Curfew), resulted in hundreds and not thousands of prisoners being released early. Yet still the sector continues to engage, challenge and adapt. The creativity that you have put into adapting your services has been beyond expectations – the response is always one of “we can help”.
We know that the lack of face-to-face delivery has been hard on all of you and the people that you support. There’s been a lack of information for people being released into the community, and scant understanding of the strange new world we are entering, which has compounded feelings of isolation. Where possible, you have all been there to support families and individuals with limitless phone calls and emails to clients, and sending books and learning material into prisons. One organisation told us that they have sent spectacles and dictionaries into prisons in response to feedback and another is providing in-cell workout books.
As we move into the transition phase the question has to be, where next? We have heard you talk about real concerns around contractual requirements, access to long term funding and an awareness that once lockdown is over there is likely to be a huge increase in demand for services and a need to ensure that there are funds and resources to meet this demand. (HMPPS CEO Jo Farrar has given an update on the government’s plans here.)
We will continue to work alongside you to hear and feedback your concerns, to advocate for the sector, shout as loudly as we can about how you have responded to this crisis and do our best to ensure that this work is built on for the future.
To everyone that has completed a survey, attended a network forum, asked questions, fed back via the Covid-19 mailbox, talked to our staff and shared your wisdom and advice: Clinks salutes you.
We will continue to provide a platform for you to share your stories, highlight concerns and make links with other organisations through our online networks. Please visit our events page for details and to register for our next series of criminal justice network meetings in June and future thematic forums. You can also get in touch directly with our Area Development Team here.
Upcoming criminal justice network meetings
Criminal justice network meeting - England
16th June | 2:00 - 3:30pm
Criminal justice network meeting - England
18th June | 10:00 - 11:30am
Criminal justice network meeting - Wales
18th June | 2:00 - 3:30pm
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Help build on the evidence base about the impact of Covid-19 on voluntary organisations by taking 10-15 minutes for our latest survey. It will help us build a better case for emergency and long-term support for organisations to weather this crisis: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/HBH7RB2