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. This is the second in a series of snapshots of the key trends and issues uncovered by our research, as well as what we think needs to change to address the challenges organisations are facing.
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 Equalities Act (2010).
Voluntary organisations working with people in contact with the criminal justice system provide a vast array of services to meet the needs of their clients, which includes providing emotional support (47%), giving housing advice (30%), providing arts-based provision (16%) and providing peer support (34%). The organisations who responded to our survey deliver their services over a broad geographical area, with 47% delivering their services locally, compared to regionally (35%) and nationally (35%).
Organisations providing services tailored to meet the specific needs of particular client groups are more likely to be reducing their services
We asked respondents if their organisation was expanding its services, maintaining them, reducing them or if the organisation is at risk of closure. The majority (50%) said they are expanding their services, whilst 6% told us they are at risk of closure. 9% are reducing their services.
When we analyse the data further, we find that organisations who provide services tailored to meet the specific needs of particular client groups are more likely to be reducing their services. 12% of these said they are reducing their services compared to 4% organisations who do not work in this way. For organisations working with people protected under the Equalities Act (2010), including those whose whole organisation’s offer is specifically tailored and those who provide some tailored services, 14% are reducing their services. Only 2% of organisations not working with people protected under the Equalities Act (2010) are reducing their services.
This is concerning as it indicates not only that these organisations are experiencing more acute challenges compared to others in the voluntary sector, but that there is a reduction in the availability of tailored support for certain groups of people in contact with the criminal justice system who have specific needs.
Statutory organisations referring people to the voluntary sector do not provide adequate funding
The voluntary sector continues to receive referrals from a range of different organisations including prisons (66%), the National Probation Service (51%) and Community Rehabilitation Companies (48%). The majority of organisations (76%) continue to say that service users self-refer to their services, which demonstrates they are trusted by the people they support and are embedded in their local communities. 60% receive referrals from other voluntary organisations, indicating close partnership and referral arrangements between them.
To explore this in more depth we asked whether organisations receive funding from the referral organisation. In most cases, statutory organisations do not provide voluntary organisations with adequate funding to support the people they have referred. This is particularly true for people referred by prisons and the National Probation Service. In around half of cases all funding to support these referrals comes from other sources. This is also the case for 40% of referrals made by Community Rehabilitation Companies. Organisations are likely to be supplementing any funding received with income from other sources, such as from charitable trusts and foundations or even their reserves, to enable them to provide the support people need. This mirrors the findings from our most recent TrackTR research.
Partnership working is essential but can be challenging
Partnership working continues to be important for voluntary organisations, with 83% saying they work in partnership. When we split the data according to whether organisations provide a tailored service for people protected under the Equalities Act (2010), we find that a higher percentage (88%) work in partnership than those who do not provide a tailored service (75%).
We carried out 10 in-depth interviews to explore the relationship between organisations that say they are set up specifically to work with people who are protected under the Equalities Act (2010), and those that might support people with unique needs based on their demographics, but they are not set up specifically to work with them. We asked all organisations questions about the nature of their partnership working.
Organisations set up specifically to work with people who are protected under the Equalities Act (2010) actively seek to work with partners to provide them not only with training and support to enable them to meet people’s specific needs, but to also highlight that those needs exist in the first place. But this can be challenging. Organisations need to simultaneously advocate on their client’s behalf – which can involve highlighting areas of poor practice where a partner isn’t adequately meeting people’s needs – whilst offering support to help their partners learn and develop good practice. One organisation told us:
“Partnerships are always a problem, particularly for an organisation like us, in the sense that we are a campaigning organisation and we are a challenging organisation in addition to service delivery. So, a lot of the work that we do is also going to service provision and challenging, which is a very difficult thing… sometimes other partners that we want to work with in those spaces then also feel uncomfortable working with us because of the kind of role that we play.”
It is essential that organisations can continue to work in this way to ensure the unique needs of their clients with characteristics protected under the Equalities Act (2010) can be met.
The next blog in the series will look at the staff and volunteers delivering services in the criminal justice system, including recruiting and retaining volunteers, and diversity in the workforce. If you have any questions or comments in the meantime we would love to hear from you, please contact Nicola Drinkwater, Policy Manager at Nicola.firstname.lastname@example.org