The voluntary sector working in criminal justice is diverse, resilient and constantly having to adapt to new challenges. But the Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented situation and organisations face incredible and unforeseen challenges in continuing to operate, safeguarding their service users, staff and volunteers and ensuring the sustainability of their organisation throughout this time.
This environment continues to change rapidly as measures to tackle Covid-19 are extended, and advice and support for the sector and those it supports changes and develops. There is still much uncertainty amongst the sector especially about the medium and longer term impacts for organisations. So to keep track of the impact of Covid-19 on the voluntary sector working in criminal justice as it happens and advocate for the sector’s needs during this difficult time, Clinks is conducting a bi-weekly survey.
Our next survey is live and takes just 10 minutes to fill out. The evidence gathered through these surveys is provided directly to key stakeholders and influential decision-makers including senior officials at the Ministry of Justice as well as the Justice Committee and the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Please don’t miss this opportunity for your organisation’s experiences and needs to be represented and for these key stakeholders to hear the challenges you’ve been up against.
What we know so far
128 voluntary sector organisations took our second survey on Covid-19. The results build up an even more detailed picture of the challenges and experiences of the sector. This blog will outline some of the key findings from the latest survey. For the findings of our previous survey, please see our blog.
The vast majority of organisations have had to reduce their service provision
Most organisations say they are able to continue delivering their services remotely to some extent (59%) and are adapting to the best of their ability, particularly by utilising telephone contact with clients (64%), video conferencing including online training (49%), and continuing with desk-based work using laptops at home.
Despite this however, the majority of organisations have had to reduce their service provision. Almost half (49%) say that they have had to reduce their service provision a lot with a further 17% having to stop service provision altogether.
Similar to the findings of our previous survey, this time we once again found that organisations are still struggling to access the vital support of volunteers. 33% say that none of the volunteers they had prior to the Covid-19 pandemic are able to continue volunteering for them. A further 28% say that less than half of their volunteers can continue to support them.
There is still uncertainty in the sector about furloughing staff
51% have not furloughed any of their staff.
When organisations were asked whether they planned to furlough any staff (or any more staff if they had already furloughed some), 36% were unsure, demonstrating the lack of certainty during this time.
Further open responses show how decisions to furlough staff are dependent on factors which are not yet clear, including how long lockdown and social isolation measures will continue; the outcome of applications for funding including emergency funding or requests for unrestricted funding; and the outcomes of other contingency plans such as redesign of services.
“We are continuing to discuss with funders and it might be that if the situation is prolonged then we would start considering furloughing” - survey respondent
“Will review at the end of April in the light of adapted provision and suitable funding” - survey respondent
We know there are challenges for organisations looking to furlough staff and the restrictions around the Job Retention Scheme, including issues for organisations that receive statutory funding for staff costs; the need for work to have stopped completely to be eligible; and the impact it has on the ability of those furloughed to continue volunteering during this time in the sector where they have expertise.
Organisations face barriers in applying for government support
Just under half of organisations say they have not yet applied for financial support from the government. Of those who haven’t, a large proportion (43%) are at this stage still uncertain as to whether they will do so within the next month. A further 34% said they wouldn’t be applying for support within the next month.
Organisations face a number of barriers to applying for financial support. Organisations are not confident that they have a full understanding of the financial support available from the government:
- 43% say they are only slightly confident that they have a full understanding of the financial support available;
- 24% are not very confident and
- 10% are not confident at all.
It is vital that the government provides the voluntary sector with up-to-date, clear and accessible information about the available support, so that organisations are equipped to make those important decisions which may be vital for their long term sustainability and enduring this difficult time. We will continue to work closely with officials and other infrastructure organisations to support the sector to have the information they need. Please keep an eye on our dedicated Covid-19 webpage which signposts to sources of support.
Of particular concern to us, is that 43% organisations told us they do not meet the eligibility criteria for financial support from the government. This was the largest barrier to applying for support. This is concerning given that some of these organisations also report they are unable to continue delivering their services. We will look more closely at how we can support organisations in this position.
Organisations are still grappling with the impact on their finances and sustainability. It’s clear organisations are working to put contingency plans in place, trying to come to arrangements with funders and where possible, adapt their services to remote working.
The impact on organisations will continue to develop over the coming months. To help us monitor how the voluntary sector in criminal justice is surviving during this time, track the changes it’s going through, and meet the needs of organisations, please continue to take our survey.
The more responses we can continue to get, the better we can advocate for the needs of the sector. The next deadline is the 1st May 2020.
Notes from the Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3) Special Interest Group on Covid-19
Latest on Twitter
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