On 21st November, we published the report of our independent impact assessment which includes a response from Clinks to its findings and recommendations.
We will be learning from this work and implementing our response to the recommendations throughout this strategic period (to March 2021) so do talk to us at any stage about what you think it might mean for you and what you need from Clinks. In this blog, I’ll go through the main findings and touch also on what we’re responding with.
The importance of independent scrutiny
The impact assessment was independently conducted. This is essential to us because we’re committed to holding ourselves up to objective scrutiny. Becky Nixon of Ideas to Impact undertook the work and this publication is her report with a section at the end written by Clinks in response.
Thank you if you took part in the review work Becky and her colleagues conducted. They heard from over 120 people - providing really powerful learning for us.
The assessment set out to understand three things:
- Whether Clinks is providing the range of services and activities that stakeholders want and need
- What difference Clinks is making to its members and the wider voluntary sector in criminal justice and ultimately to the sector’s service users
- Whether Clinks’ work is of good quality.
The learning for Clinks
You value the work we do promoting and raising the profile of the sector and individual organisations. However, we could improve opportunities for organisations’ self-promotion at events and making sure our events are geographically spread.
Our information provision is our most popular type of support, which includes ebulletins, networks and forums. Organisations say our targeted information saves them time and that opportunities to contribute to ebulletins, for example Light Lunch, are welcome and organisations say they receive responses to their calls to action. Staff are deemed approachable and you welcome having named contacts in thematic networks and our Area Development Team. You would like us to deliver our information in a range of formats and continue to look at how we prioritise and filter information. You’d like more interactive events with bigger audiences and more chance to network across a wider cross-section of people.
You welcome our involvement of people with lived experience in our events – it inspires you and gives you practical ideas. Our service user involvement network and resources are also deemed helpful. You suggest we update these resources in line with good practice and consider the needs of people with lived experience who wish to set up their own organisations.
The work we do providing commissioners and decision makers with a route into the voluntary sector working in the criminal justice system and vice versa is valued. It gives officials diversity of voices and improves policy-maker confidence while the sector feels the opportunities we provide could help hold officials to account.
The complexity of our relationship and advocacy work is recognised and we manage to strike the necessary balances well.
Areas for improvement include publicising what impact our policy work has and better strategic alignment of our forums and networks so members and attendees can feed into policy development.
In relation to our work to tackle discrimination and inequality, the response was that representation of small and specialist organisations is evident. Interviewees were optimistic about Clinks’ merger with Women’s Breakout and how the women’s sector influenced the Female Offender Strategy.
You want us to be more representative of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people and questioned the progress in changing practice as a result of reviews we’ve led and supported.
You value the networks Clinks helps you build – through access to our publicity channels, introductions to partners and commissioners and access to funding. However, you also want more ways to meet other organisations to explore collaboration, including regionally and sub regionally. You want us to focus more on procurement practices and provide more practical support to small and specialist organisations to access opportunities.
Our evidence is valuable to officials – especially trackTR and The State of the sector – and voluntary organisations valued the range of opportunities to feed in. Response rates could be improved though as well as the accessibility of our requests for information for small and specialist organisations.
There is a positive view that the sector is ‘round the table’ through Clinks, from both the sector and officials, though most organisations still want more collaboration at national and local levels and more of a partnership approach.
Putting the learning into action
So in response, we set out what we’ll do on pages 58 and 59. The real cause for comfort for us is that in reflecting on the findings and recommendations we found that our future plans – in terms of our 2019-22 strategy Creating change together – addressed or went some way towards addressing most of them. We can build from there.
In summary we will:
- Have a focus on understanding the difference we make – starting with the tricky areas of policy impact and sharing that learning across the charity
- Through our forthcoming communications strategy, ensure that we produce timely, accessible information with more focus on the user and utility
- Improve how we communicate what we’re doing in relation to policy development and what difference we are making
- Encourage a more strategic approach to the sector in Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service
- Consider how to make our networks and forums more interactive and make best use of the time you give to them
- Continue to grow our Area Development Team where funding allows. We will build our presence in Wales and in 2020 we will have a focussed work stream in our State of the sector work looking at organisations in Wales in more depth
- Continue to push for implementation of the Female Offender Strategy and Lammy Review as well as both of Lord Farmer’s reviews, working with specialist organisations, and explore the need with BAME specialist organisations for a BAME specialist support network
- Remain committed to challenging and supporting increased lived experience involvement, coproduction and co-creation in the sector
- Review our membership, training and events offers and coproduce programmes of support with the sector and connect you to available evidence and good practice.
In all of this we’ll keep a focus on ourselves – always asking ourselves how we could work better so that we are always able to give you our best, so you can be at your best for those who need you.
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We welcome Richard Oldfield’s independent review of the probation Dynamic Framework, which echoes many of the issues we’ve consistently raised and recommendations that we’ve made. Read more about the review in our guest blog from Richard Oldfield: https://www.clinks.org/community/blog-posts/independent-review-probatio…