Clinks conducts annual research on the voluntary sector working in the criminal justice system. It provides the most comprehensive, up-to-date research we have on this unique part of the voluntary sector and we use it to represent and advocate for the sector with key decision makers.
This is the second instalment in a series of blogs to help our members and stakeholders digest the key findings of our State of the sector report. Each blog will focus on a key area within the report, including: service users; service delivery; staff and volunteers; and funding.
This blog will take a closer look at the services being delivered by the sector.
How the sector’s services are changing
Our research findings continue to demonstrate the diverse array of services that this sector provides, ranging from mental health services to family support, to arts-based-provision. This year’s research found that the sector’s top three primary areas of work are:
- Attitudes, thinking and behaviour (60%)
- Emotional support (57%)
- Education/training/learning (53%).
Our research not only looks at what types of services organisations deliver, but also explores how voluntary sector organisations have been changing over the last financial year as they respond to the changing needs of their service users and the external policy environment.
Over half of the organisations that responded to our survey said they were expanding their services. When we asked for more information as to why their services were changing, it was clear from the responses that expansion looked different for different organisations. For some it meant expanding into new geographical areas, for others it meant expanding the types of services they offer, and for some it meant taking or more staff and/or volunteers. Organisations were doing this to respond to changes in the external environment, with a number of them suggesting they were able to expand because their services aligned to current stakeholder priorities and, by extension, funding streams.
Although 20% of organisations said they were maintaining their services, the follow on responses highlighted the struggle that many organisations were facing to do so and the concerns that many of them shared about not being able to do so for much longer.
“We are currently maintaining existing services but are facing financial [difficulties] that could potentially require a significant reduction in services.” - Survey respondent
“Only just [maintaining services]!! Short term funding causes us problems.” - Survey respondent
The qualitative answers from organisations – whether they were expanding, changing, maintaining or reducing their services – shone a spotlight on the increasingly competitive funding environment, the growing complexities in commissioning processes and difficulties offering sustainable services with such short term funding cycles.
The justice landscape is fast-changing, which can create uncertainty for the sector. The implementation of new systems, like the introduction of the dynamic purchasing system for procuring education services in prisons, along with some significant changes on the horizon, namely the reform of probation, will further impact the ability of organisations to maintain their service provision. This is especially true, given that the top primary areas of support delivered by the sector include education and learning support, and attitudes, thinking and behaviour work which are key areas of service delivery sub-contracted by probation.
Who’s relying on the voluntary sector’s services and who’s funding it?
Our research also looks at where voluntary sector services get referrals from. The results indicate close collaboration and partnership working within the sector, with 61% of organisations saying they received referrals from other voluntary sector organisations. The findings also highlight just how reliant statutory organisations are on the voluntary sector’s services. This year prisons make up the largest source of referrals. More than half of organisations also report that they receive referrals from probation – both the National Probation Service (NPS) and the Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs).
The funding picture behind these referrals is complex and payment mechanisms will vary. For example, some organisations will already be funded by other sources to provide a service and therefore funding is not required by referring organisations.
We asked organisations about the proportion of funding that comes from the referring organisations compared to how much comes from other sources.
For referrals from statutory organisations, we found that in the majority of cases all or most of the funding for the delivery of those referrals came entirely from other sources, not the referring organisation. For example, 53% of organisations who received referrals from prisons and 67% of organisations who received referrals from the National Probation Service, reported that the funding for those referrals came entirely from other sources.
This indicates that funding for the delivery of services does not reflect how much the statutory sector is relying on the voluntary sector to support people in contact with the criminal justice system and re-emphasises just how vital funding from charitable trusts and foundations is, so that organisations can continue to deliver the services for the people who are referred to them.
Look out for the next blog in this series which will look in more detail at the voluntary sector’s staff and volunteers. In the meantime, if you have any questions about the issues raised in this blog please contact Lauren Nickolls, Policy Officer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.