2018 has only just begun and we have already seen a new ministerial team at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). Secretary of State David Lidington has now been replaced by David Gauke, and Sam Gyimah (former Minister for Prisons and Probation) and Dominic Raab (former Minister for Courts and Justice) have moved on to other departments. Rory Stewart and Lucy Frazer have been appointed to the MoJ as Ministers but their specific roles have not been confirmed yet.
With such frequent changes to the ministerial team, it is easy to feel despondent about the potential for progress in criminal justice policy. However, a look back at Clinks’ recent work reminds us of the important developments still ongoing and the continuing role of the voluntary sector in influencing policy.
In November 2017, we launched our 2016-2017 Annual Review. The report details how Clinks responded to increasing challenges for the sector by developing our partnership work to maximise our impact and investing in new staff to support our members. It outlines the ongoing work that Clinks is doing on strengthening the voice of the voluntary sector, highlighting the specific needs of priority groups in the criminal justice system – such as women and families – and promoting the innovative work of our members. Our annual conference, focused on the theme of ‘resilience’, brought members together to share strategies on surviving and thriving under difficult conditions.
Having worked in partnership with Lord Farmer on his review of family ties for men in prison, Clinks continues to engage with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and HM Prisons and Probation Service (HMPPS) to explore best practice in relation to the review’s recommendations and progress on the implementation of its 19 recommendations, all of which were accepted by the MoJ. The review has been well received across the political spectrum and continues to keep a high profile with two debates taking place last year – one in Westminster Hall and one in the House of Lords – on the topic of family relationships for people in prison.
Ahead of the publication of the government’s response to the Lammy Review of outcomes for black, Asian and minority ethnic individuals in the criminal justice system on 19th December, Clinks facilitated a meeting of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME)-led voluntary organisations with the then Secretary of State for Justice David Lidington. Organisations highlighted the need for robust and transparent action on BAME equality in the criminal justice system and for ongoing engagement with the BAME voluntary sector. Clinks’ Interim Head of Policy, Jess Mullen, wrote a briefing for the sector giving an overview of the Lammy Review and the relevance of its recommendations for the voluntary sector. She has also written a blog detailing the key points of the government’s response to the review. Clinks will continue to work with the Young Review to monitor the implementation of the government’s response to the review and continue to push for engagement with the BAME voluntary sector.
In December 2017, we published State of the sector 2017: Recommendations for change. This paper outlines the steps Clinks plans to take in response to the information gathered from our annual state of the sector survey: support organisations to explore alternative fundraising options, assist organisations to support their staff and volunteers and proactively speak up on behalf of voluntary organisations to decision-makers. It also gives recommendations for other voluntary sector organisations, charitable trusts and foundations, and government and criminal justice agencies.
The last few months have also been busy for the Reducing Reoffending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3). This group brings together senior experts from the voluntary sector with officials from the MoJ and HMPPS to provide feedback and guidance on policy developments. In November, a delegation from the group met with the then Minister for Prisons and Probation, Sam Gyimah, to discuss voluntary sector experiences of Transforming Rehabilitation and principles for a high-quality probation system. Notes from the group’s most recent meeting on 5th December will be available on the Clinks website in the coming weeks. The group will now seek a meeting with the new Minister for Prisons and Probation in order to highlight the work of the voluntary sector and outline its priorities.
Over the coming weeks Clinks will be working to engage with the new justice ministers to ensure they understand the vital role played by voluntary sector organisations in supporting people in contact with the criminal justice system. While the uncertainty that comes with yet another change in leadership at the MoJ can be frustrating and destabilising for voluntary organisations, we are also hopeful that this presents an opportunity for leadership from the sector.
The sector has pioneered the innovative and effective strategies needed to solve the problems facing the criminal justice system and Clinks will continue to promote these to decision-makers. A new ministerial team represents another opportunity for the voluntary sector to be vocal in highlighting good practice and putting forward a plan of action for reducing the prison population and moving towards a rehabilitative system.