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 Equality Act (2010).
This is the fifth in a series of blogs that aims to give a snap-shot of the key trends and issues our research uncovered, as well as what we think needs to change for the challenges organisations are experiencing to be addressed.
Voluntary organisations have been delivering much needed, and trusted, services to people in contact with the criminal justice system for at least 200 years. When the safety net is reduced, as it has been through austerity measures, it is voluntary organisations that step in to work tirelessly to meet the ever changing and complex needs of some of the most marginalised in our communities.
As well as giving us a lot to celebrate, the results from our 2018 State of the sector research has given us real pause for thought as it demonstrates challenges that we need to work collectively to address if we are going to see voluntary organisations thrive.
So, how are Clinks responding to the issues we have uncovered?
After our previous State of the sector report in 2017 we published a recommendations paper that had a total of 12 asks - three each for the government and criminal justice agencies, voluntary organisations, charitable trusts and foundations and three commitments from Clinks. Social change takes time to achieve, and although we have had some successes we think we can make more progress. As such, we will keep promoting and working to ensure the asks in our recommendations paper are translated into reality. However, I did want to reflect back on the work we have done so far to meet the commitments that Clinks made, as follows:
1. Supporting organisations to explore alternative fundraising options. In 2017 we launched a project which raised the profile of social finance and explored whether it is a viable option for voluntary organisations. We held an event entitled ‘An insiders’ view of prison and probation today’ aimed at promoting the inspirational and innovative work voluntary organisations working in the criminal justice system deliver to potential funders, in particular livery companies but also other trusts. Clinks also remains a member of the Grants for Good campaign, led by the Directory for Social Change.
2. Assisting organisations to support their staff and volunteers. We know that working in prisons is becoming increasingly difficult, and engagement with prisons to ensure the coordination of services is limited. We updated and ran our ‘Volunteering in prisons’ training and promoted our good prison model, which advocates for voluntary sector coordination in prisons. Our Area Development Team continue to work closely with local organisations and run regional criminal justice forums to provide policy updates and provide the opportunity for voluntary organisations to come together and discuss common issues and concerns.
3. Proactively acting as a critical friend to decision makers. We have consistent engagement with HM Prison and Probation Service and the Ministry of Justice to speak up on behalf of voluntary organisations and to capitalise on opportunities for organisations to do this themselves. We have formal mechanisms through which we act as a critical friend to decision makers, including providing the chair and secretariat for the Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3), and our membership of the Ministry of Justice’s Advisory Board for Female Offenders, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service’s external advice and scrutiny panel for implementation of the Lammy Review recommendations, the Prisoner Learning Alliance and the VCSE Health and Wellbeing Alliance. We also submitted responses to 11 policy consultations in 2018 to promote the work and view of our members, although timescales for us to engage in consultations have often been prohibitive for us to work directly with the voluntary sector to inform our submissions, as we would like.
Working to meet the needs of people with protected characteristics
Our 2018 survey included a thematic focus to explore how organisations are identifying and working to meet the needs of people protected under the Equality Act (2010). We launched our research in November 2018 and used the event as an opportunity to consult delegates to hear their views, ideas and commitments in relation to how we can proactively work to ensure all voluntary organisations are working to meet the needs of people protected under the Equality Act (2010).
Delegates were voluntary sector representatives, including those providing services tailored to a particular client group, civil servants and charitable trusts and foundations. We asked each stakeholder group to make commitments for themselves, rather than looking to what others could do. The commitments ranged from focusing on partnership working, to fair and transparent commissioning processes to highlighting the need for co-production and peer to peer support within services. Since the event we have synthesised the information and published our commitments. This publication summarises our findings and sets out our three commitments.
Here's what we will focus on in the coming year:
1. Ensure voluntary organisations and criminal justice partners know what protected characteristics means
Commitment: Clinks will promote a better understanding of tackling inequalities in the criminal justice system amongst all our stakeholders and we will review the language we use to do this to ensure that is accessible and relevant.
2. Support partnership working between those providing a tailored service to a particular client group and those who do not.
Clinks will advocate for the effective involvement of organisations providing tailored services for particular client groups and good partnership working between them and other voluntary organisations.
3. Promoting the work and value of small, locally based organisations providing a tailored service for a particular client group.
Commitment: Clinks will continue to advocate on behalf of organisations providing a tailored service for particular client groups, proactively working with key stakeholders including charitable trusts and foundations to demonstrate their essential value and the need for them to receive sustainable, long term grant funding.
Clinks will continue to use our State of the sector research to guide our policy work and the support that we provide to our members. We will proactively work to address the challenges our research has uncovered whilst also encouraging others to do the same.
We conduct our research annually and will be launching our 2019 survey on 22nd May (here's the link). If you are a voluntary organisation working with people in contact with the criminal justice system, I encourage you to complete our survey. It is only by hearing your voice and about your experiences that we will be able to work collaboratively to share your successes and address any challenges you are experiencing.
If you would like to get in touch about our the sector research, or any of the issues raised in this blog please contact Nicola Drinkwater, Policy Manager at Nicola.firstname.lastname@example.org