I've just finalised the production of the findings of our latest State of the Sector report, which presents the experiences of the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Sector working in criminal justice, and thought it would be of interest to you to share my observations. (Read the report by clicking on the image on the right, or the link at the bottom of this blog post).
It was good to see that overall income for the Sector was stable over the last two years – though this may be skewed because those that have shut down, or are in crisis, will not be responding to our survey. In addition, the Sector overall was positive about the future, predicting a continuation of their current levels of income and low redundancies. It is good to see optimism from the Sector, and I hope it doesn't prove to be premature.
My greatest concern from the whole survey is that two thirds of respondents are not achieving full cost recovery on their contracting arrangements. Reserves are being used to subsidise this shortfall, which is clearly unsustainable. We are aware that many organisations are doing this because it’s all that is available, and you are doing your best to meet the high levels of need that you're experiencing. Clinks will work with the Sector to try and ensure you are getting the best deal possible, through continued provision of information, training and support.
Need is unlikely to decrease in the near future, with the impact of benefits caps and the 'bedroom tax' not yet fully realised. These changes will hit our service users and are likely, therefore, to further increase demand on the Sector. We know from our survey that redundancies continue, and you are relying on volunteers and unpaid staff time to provide capacity. This has implications for the quality of the service, and the health of the staff! Organisations are, unsurprisingly, spending more time on fundraising in this difficult environment, which further increases the strain on service provision.
While the issues identified are of serious concern, overall the Sector appears, yet again, to be proving resilient in the face of multiple challenges. It is this resilience and determination to continue to meet the needs of service users, regardless of the obstacles, that will ensure the survival of the Sector.
Download the Executive summary and full report here