Our annual State of the sector research presents the most detailed information we have on how voluntary organisations working with people in contact with the criminal justice system are faring. We explore a variety of topics, including the number of people organisations support and their needs, the services being delivered and the people delivering them, and how organisations are funded. Our latest research had a thematic focus on how organisations both identify and respond to the needs of people protected under the Equalities Act (2010).
This is the third in a series of snapshots of the key trends and issues uncovered by our research. It looks at staff and volunteer recruitment, and the diversity in the workforce.
Staff and volunteers are the lifeblood of voluntary organisations and provide essential support to service users. Data analysed by NCVO from the financial accounts of 1,433 charities submitted to the charity commission shows that the workforce of voluntary organisations is considerable and continues to rise. Using Clinks’ knowledge of the voluntary sector and the stated charitable aims and objectives of the analysed organisations, we split them into two groups:
- Specialist criminal justice organisations (n=320) – whose main purpose is to work in criminal justice
- Non-specialist criminal justice organisations (n=1,113) – whose service users might include people who have a conviction, but working in criminal justice is not their main purpose.
In the financial year 2015/16, specialist criminal justice organisations employed 12,787 people, whilst non-specialist organisations employed 124,123 people, with volunteer numbers being 16,636 and 475,989 respectively. For the eight year period since 2008/09, the number of employees in specialist criminal justice organisations has risen by 33%, whilst for non-specialist organisations this has risen by 40%.
Volunteers are essential, but difficult to recruit and retain
89% of respondents to our survey said their organisation employs volunteers. They provide essential support and undertake a variety of roles directly supporting service users including giving advice, information, counselling, befriending and mentoring.
Organisations with lower numbers of paid staff are more reliant on volunteers. When looking at the ratio of staff to volunteers we find that for organisations with:
- 1-10 staff, the volunteer to staff ratio is 5.2
- 11-19 staff, the volunteer to staff ratio is 2.0
- 20-24 staff, the volunteer to staff ratio is 2.4
- 25-49 staff, the volunteer to staff ratio is 0.9.
Recruiting, supporting and retaining volunteers is resource intensive as organisations need to generate funding to ensure they are able to provide the right training and support for their volunteers, which can be challenging.
“Whilst more volunteers allow us to continue our work, it now takes up more time of one paid staff member, which we must then count in overheads (so it is difficult to fund).” – Survey respondent
Organisations recognise the importance of a diverse workforce, but challenges remain in achieving it
To explore whether organisations are able to determine, reflect and meet the needs of their clients with protected characteristics we added questions to this year’s survey and interviews to explore the diversity of their staff and volunteers.
When we asked whether organisations thought their staff and volunteers were representative of the people they support, we found a mixed picture. However, overall we found that volunteers are more representative than staff.
All organisations who said they support people with protected characteristics, including those who do not provide a tailored service to meet their needs, are more likely to have staff and volunteers who are mostly (30% and 33%) and completely (13% and 20%) representative of the people they support. This is also true for organisations who provide a tailored service to meet their clients’ unique needs:
- 15% say their staff are completely representative of the people they support, compared to 9% of organisations who do not provide a tailored service
- 23% say their volunteers are completely representative of the people they support, compared to 18% of organisations who do not provide a tailored service.
Regardless of whether organisations say their workforce is representative or not, organisations recognise the importance of having a diverse workforce. One survey respondent stated it is vital they represent the people they support, and that the majority of their staff and volunteers live in the communities they work in. Indeed, having experience of the criminal justice system was one of the key ways organisations identified their staff and volunteers as being representative of their service users. For many of these organisations, the staff and volunteers they recruit are often former beneficiaries of their services.
During the interviews, organisations providing a tailored service for people protected under the Equalities Act (2010) highlighted how important it was for them that their staff and volunteers represented the demographic make-up of their service users. There were a range of reasons why they felt this was important, including the ability to better engage with and relate to service users and the ability to create a ‘safe space’ to discuss challenging issues for staff, volunteers and service users.
Even though the majority of organisations take proactive steps to recruit a workforce that reflects the people they support, they often find it challenging to achieve and is something they would like to continue to prioritise and improve.
“We strive to be representative but find it challenging to provide opportunities for internal progression for service users. In terms of volunteers we get many graduates wanting to volunteer and have to invest more time and resources to target vulnerable groups and volunteers from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities.”
The next blog in the series will look at how organisations are funded. If you have any questions or comments in the meantime we would love to hear from you, please contact Nicola Drinkwater, Policy Manager at Nicola.firstname.lastname@example.org
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We are extremely disappointed that the JCVI advice on phase 2 of the COVID vaccination programme does not prioritise people in prison and those who work with them, including voluntary sector staff and volunteers https://gov.uk/government/publications/priority-groups-for-phase-2-of-the-coronavirus-covid-19-vaccination-programme-advice-from-the-jcvi/jcvi-interim-statement-on-phase-2-of-the-covid-19-vaccination-programme