Today, Clinks is launching a grant programme to support voluntary organisations working in criminal justice with an annual income under £500,000 to continue their work through the Covid-19 crisis. We are pleased to be able to distribute £275,000* on behalf of Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) as part of activities under the grant for the provision of infrastructure support for small and medium sized voluntary organisations.
The impact of Covid-19 on our sector
The pandemic has had a huge effect on the voluntary sector. Organisations are facing extraordinary challenges - from safeguarding the people they support and their staff, to a loss in funding and long-term sustainability concerns.
For voluntary organisations working in criminal justice the sector's normal places of service delivery - often prisons - have been drastically affected, restricting access to people who need support more than ever. The way in which the sector delivers much of its work in the community - providing face to face support - is having to be adapted.
Organisations are showing characteristic resilience and flexibility by adapting their services where they can but this requires resource and capacity. Our fortnightly surveys show that volunteering numbers are drastically down and almost half (49%) of organisations are having to reduce their service provision a lot, with a further 17% having to stop service provision altogether. All this is taking place at a time when need is not reducing and is affecting organisations' ability to deliver on grant and contract requirements.
Some organisations (just under half of our last survey's respondents) have taken advantage of the government's furlough scheme, but many in our sector are delivering essential services - supporting vulnerable people - and need to continue doing so through the pandemic. In addition, if organisations' funding comes from the public purse then they're not eligible for furlough, but we know a significant and growing amount of the sector's income is via public sector contracts.
Just under half of organisations responding to our surveys say they have not yet applied for financial support from the government. Organisations told us that they are not confident that they have a full understanding of the financial support available from the government and how it applies to them. As pointed out by our colleagues at Charity Finance Group the way in which charities operate is very different from business; we need to be flexible with our resources and cross subsidise in ways businesses do not. As a result, many of the support measures designed for businesses just don't work for our sector.
The grants programme
Since the beginning of the lockdown, Clinks has undertaken a range of activity to understand the impact on the sector, support its practice in the new context and influence government policy. This includes facilitating a process through which voluntary organisations can submit offers to HMPPS for how they can adapt their service or deliver more support to people in prisons, youth custody or in the community in the context of Covid-19. We are working with HMPPS to refine this process to ensure that it is as effective as it can be at matching the sector's capacity to HMPPS' needs for support.
The grants programme launched today will build on this. Grants are intended for organisations already providing support, or who have a track record of doing so, in prisons, in the community and through-the-gate. Organisations will be known to HMPPS/its prisons and probation services already. This funding will assist delivery of support where needs are not being met by current services. Organisations do not need to be in receipt of an HMPPS grant or a contract to provide services but should already have an existing relationship with HMPPS services to enable referrals and feasibly deliver services in the current circumstances.
This fund is intended to be open for 6 months, dependent on funds remaining. Organisations will usually have a decision made on their application within ten days if all information required is provided. As one of the aims of this fund is to provide immediate financial support to enable essential services, we intend to provide funding within two weeks of decision, in one payment.
We have worked with HMPPS to establish a decision making process for the distribution of these monies. Grants will be decided on by a panel of Clinks, HMPPS and a philanthropic funder, with HMPPS having casting vote. Clinks will contribute our intelligence of the needs of the sector to ensure it reaches parts of the sector that need it most. We aim to spread the money across regions, organisation size and service type and to include organisations that support people with protected characteristics.
Advocating for further support
This grant programme is an important part of the support the sector needs to continue providing its services now and in the future. However, the criteria for these grants and the total sum available means that not everyone in our sector who requires financial support will be able to benefit.
Our sector is #nevermoreneeded than right now but the challenges it faces are significant and the impact of the current crisis on organisations and their beneficiaries will be felt long into the future. £275,000 is not sufficient to enable organisations to continue their vital work in meeting the needs of people during the pandemic and beyond.
We are extremely disappointed that the Ministry of Justice was not successful in their bid for funds to support the voluntary sector working with people in the criminal justice system from the £360m available from Department of Culture Media and Sport as part of the government's £750m emergency package for charities providing key services and supporting vulnerable people during the crisis. In response to that decision the funding for the grant programme we’re announcing today has been provided by HMPPS on a matched basis. Our sector provides vital support to some of the most vulnerable in society and it is frustrating and disheartening not to see this work and the needs of the sector’s beneficiaries recognised across the government beyond HMPPS and the Ministry of Justice.
Alongside facilitating the distribution of the HMPPS/MoJ funding in the most effective way possible, we will continue to work, alongside our partners across the voluntary sector, to highlight the vital work charities and social enterprises are currently undertaking through the current crisis to support people in prison and on release and the impact that Covid-19 is having on them. We will advocate strongly for the needs of our sector across Whitehall and in Wales. We will also continue to work closely with the philanthropic community to ensure that they also understand these needs.
We will stand by you while you stand by the people who need your help, while you're #nevermoreneeded.
* HMPPS have provided £300k for this grants programme. Clinks is able to retain up to £25k to administer the programme from that total. We are hoping not to have to do that and if successful we will grant the full £300k to the sector.