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Clinks’ statement in response to House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts inquiry into Transforming Rehabilitation (23rd September 2016)

For immediate release

Friday 23rd September 2016

Clinks’ statement in response to House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts inquiry into Transforming Rehabilitation

Voluntary organisations essential if rehabilitation revolution is to have any chance of success

The House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts inquiry into the Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) programme’s implementation has found that progress has been slow and the revolution promised has not been realised as yet. Voluntary sector organisations, deemed central to the programme at the outset, are not being engaged effectively.

The Committee found that the measures to reduce reoffending and transform services, including for those people serving shorter sentences, were not having the intended results. Services were found to be varied and there were challenges in determining good outcomes from issues relating to data and the protracted negotiations with the prime contractors.

Focusing specifically at one point on the role and experience of the involvement of voluntary sector organisations the committee accepted evidence from Clinks, NCVO, Third Sector Research Council (TSRC) and also from Women’s Breakout.  The Committee concluded that the reforms had not managed to open the probation system up to a wider group of providers, especially smaller voluntary sector organisations. They were clear that lessons need to be learned from a narrowing of the market to a small number private sector providers, excluding even the larger voluntary sector organisations from competing on a level playing field. 

Commenting on the report, Anne Fox Chief Executive Officer of Clinks – representing voluntary organisations working in criminal justice - said

“We all need our probation services to be the best they can, but right now they appear inconsistent and lacking in real innovation. To revolutionise and transform rehabilitation the voluntary sector’s expertise of working in innovative ways with impressive results needs to be fully involved. However, the Public Accounts Committee has recognised that the full potential of the voluntary sector is not being realised.

We have also heard concerns about the quality of services being delivered, particularly to people serving short prison sentences and those being offered to women in the justice system. The voluntary sector has solutions to these issues and needs to be central to reforming these services.

We welcome the recommendation that the Ministry of Justice and NOMS assess the health of the voluntary sector’s relationship with probation services, identify gaps in provision and get smaller voluntary organisations more involved.  We have already offered support to work alongside the Ministry to deliver on this recommendation”.

Referring to the work of Clinks, NCVO and TSRC tracking the involvement of the voluntary sector in TR, Fox continued “We have heard the experience of over 300 voluntary organisations across England and Wales. We know that the involvement of voluntary organisations and the pace of transformation has been very slow. We believe that the very low involvement of the voluntary sector’s expertise and poor communication with the sector by those leading the new systems has hampered a revolution in our probation services.

Voluntary organisations are keen to get involved and improve our rehabilitation services, bringing their expertise to the table. We look forward to working with Ministry of Justice, Community Rehabilitation Companies and the National Probation Service to respond quickly and effectively to improve outcomes.”

ENDS ............................................................................................................................................. Notes to Editors:

  • Clinks supports, represents and campaigns for the voluntary sector working with offenders and their families. Clinks aims to ensure the sector and all those with whom they work, are informed and engaged in order to transform the lives of offenders and their communities. More information about Clinks can be found at
  • Clinks, NCVO and Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) are monitoring the voluntary sector's involvement in Transforming Rehabilitation, following concerns that charities have missed out in previous large-scale government contracts. We are calling for the voluntary sector to share their experiences on this large scale reform of offender rehabilitation services. Our first report on the sector experiences, 'early doors' was launched in August 2015. Our second report 'Change & challenge' was launched in May 2016.

The project – a partnership between Clinks, NCVO and TSRC - will track charities’ experiences of Transforming Rehabilitation by listening to organisations both directly and indirectly affected by this reform. This will highlight emerging good practice, as well as areas that need improvement, leading to clear recommendations for Government and other stakeholders. 

The trackTR Change & Challenge report found:

1 / The pace of change is slow - The changes to probation services are taking a long time to embed. The pace of change is reported to be curbing investment in the voluntary sector’s rehabilitation and resettlement services, meaning that services run by the voluntary sector are vulnerable and at a greater risk of closure.

2 / Voluntary sector involvement in supply chains appears low Only one quarter of the 151 voluntary sector organisations that responded to our survey reported being funded through a CRC’s supply chain. The organisations that are in supply chains are disproportionately larger voluntary sector organisations, with very few smaller or medium sized organisations represented. However, the contribution of voluntary sector organisations outside of supply chains to rehabilitation and resettlement outcomes is likely to be considerable. Half of the voluntary organisations outside of supply chains still receive and accept referrals from CRCs and the NPS, whilst over two thirds receive referrals directly from prisons.

3 / Poor communication between probation services and the voluntary sector is damaging local relationships The voluntary sector’s relationships with CRCs and the NPS are being negatively affected by a lack of communication about future strategy, service development and commissioning opportunities. Furthermore, many voluntary organisations report a mixture of confusion and uncertainty about what services are being offered through CRCs and the NPS.

4 / The NPS needs to work more effectively with the voluntary sector We heard that the ‘rate card’ system limits strategic engagement with the voluntary sector, restricts collaboration as well as innovation and increases the cost of services to the NPS.

5 / The quality of services and the outcomes for service users require close monitoring. Many voluntary sector organisations could not say whether Transforming Rehabilitation had negatively or positively impacted on services or service users, possibly because the transition to new approaches is still underway. However, those that had seen a change were more likely to report it as negative rather than positive; in some cases considerably more likely.

6 / There is anxiety about current and future funding and sustainability. Although most voluntary sector organisations report that their funding for rehabilitation and resettlement services hasn’t been impacted as of yet, there is growing anxiety about the sustainability of services and evidence that the situation needs monitoring. Organisations also report that a lack of information about what services the CRCs and NPS are commissioning and/or delivering is putting other funding sources at risk, particularly local authorities and independent charitable funders


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