A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of heading to Bristol for our South West Member Forum, meeting with people from a number of our Member organisations working in the region.
The group came from a whole range of organisations: our hosts Black South West Network, who support BME and other marginal community organisations in the South West; the Community Chaplaincy Association, supporting community chaplaincy projects across the country; The Footprints Project, offering through-the-gate mentoring in Dorset and south Somerset; GAVCA, the Gloucestershire Association for Voluntary and Community Action; Life Cycle UK, running a bike recycling workshop in HMP Bristol; Nilaari Agency, a specialist community drug treatment project in Bristol; Re:Work, providing work experience placements to unemployed and young people in the Knowle West area of south Bristol; Signpost & Rite Direkshon, an African Caribbean-led project in central Bristol supporting those experiencing social and economic exclusion; Splitz Support Service, delivering domestic violence support and prevention services across Wiltshire, Bristol and Gloucestershire; Swansea Community Chaplaincy, offering continuity of care to prisoners resettling into the community from HMP Swansea; and WorldWide Volunteering, promoting volunteering including encouraging organisations to take ex-offender volunteers. All in all a brilliant reflection of the diverse organisations who make up our membership and the fantastic work they do!
Our discussions raised a familiar list of issues people are facing, which I'm sure you'll all recognise: short timescales and technology problems creating difficulties in applying for contracts or funding; lack of information around contract changes and transferral of services raising anxiety levels for service users; the challenges of working in prisons in a time of cutbacks and uncertainty over restructuring; getting to grips with Transforming Rehabilitation; or how to pick out what's most important to you from the sometimes overwhelming flow of information coming at you…
We also heard some interesting suggestions about ways in which Clinks could help:
· Prioritise articles in Light Lunch by ranking or tagging them, to make it easier to identify vital information
· Provide summarised information on Transforming Rehabilitation, minus the jargon, to help organisations plan for the future
Note: You can find a summary of the latest developments in Transforming Rehabilitation here, and Joe’s blog provides a handy glossary to help you understand the jargon!
· Argue for more consistent access to work in prisons for ex-offenders – perhaps through the new Transforming Rehabilitation contracts for work in resettlement prisons
· Suggest to prime providers that they arrange partnership meetings for the Voluntary and Community Sector working in prisons
· Run a membership drive through local CVS and infrastructure organisations, so they can relax knowing their members are receiving dedicated criminal justice support from Clinks
· Support a Plain English campaign - look at building a national partnership around getting rid of jargon from commissioning, working across different Sectors and government departments
What do you think? Would these suggestions help you in your work? Are there other things you would like to see Clinks doing? Please add your comments and ideas below: We don’t promise we’ll be able to act on them all, but we’re always keen to hear and respond to our Members’ needs where we can!
And if you’re not a Clinks Member yet, check out our membership pages to find out how you could benefit.