The voluntary sector in criminal justice
Clinks supports the voluntary sector working with offenders and their families in England and Wales. We have over 600 members, ranging from the sector’s largest providers to its smallest. Join Clinks
It has been a year of transformation. The voluntary sector has had to work through big reforms made by the last government as well as understand and adapt to the policies of a new government.
Clinks remains focused, supporting the sector to work alongside people in the Criminal Justice System, to transform their lives, to rehabilitate, to resettle, and to learn from the lived experience of people in the system for the benefit of communities, families, and the victims of crime.
In writing this foreword (my first in the post of Chief Executive Officer) I’m struck by the vibrancy of the criminal justice sector – the variety and range of approaches there are to the needs of offenders and their families – writes ANNE FOX.
I am struck by the presence of the voluntary sector in all aspects of its work – in prisons, in probation and in the community. The sector plays an essential role in assisting people to succeed in transforming their own lives who will quite often be set to fail without really focused support.
The voluntary sector is a trusted supporter, adviser and partner in many areas of policy, service development and delivery. Through the provision of direct services it is in a valuable and trusted position not only to support people in the system, but also to shape services, promote what is working well and provide challenge where necessary. The sector knows how essential the voices of service users are in developing more effective and efficient support that achieves results. It can and should be relied upon to provide a source of support and challenge that affects positive change in policy and services for the greater good.
In 2015 we’ve seen more evidence of how the sector continues to support fantastic achievements and success stories. We’ve heard from our members involved in the delivery of transformed probation services as to what is working and what continues to require refinement and attention. We’ve recruited our RR3 advisory group to provide direct advice to the Ministry of Justice and provide a channel of communication between national policy and local communities.
In 2016 we’ll continue to work with the government on the current policy agenda as well as provide the expertise of our sector in emerging policy around the prison estate and regime. We’ll continue to support the voice of those who use services as well as the voluntary sector to feed into reviews on education and the youth justice system.
In 2016 we’ll continue to support our members to understand their strengths as well as what challenges them. We’ll build their capacity so that the sector can enable the change that so many who come to them seek and long for. We’ll undertake focused projects looking at the role of volunteers and how best to utilise volunteers in prison settings as well as developing shared evidence and understanding the features of a good prison in order to emulate and replicate these features wherever the sector is working.
We will continue to ensure there’s a focus on those aspects of life which might present further challenges for some offenders – such as the complexities of maintaining and developing strong family relationships, living with multiple and complex needs and experiencing disproportionately poor outcomes related to gender and/or membership of black and ethnic minority groups.
We will continue to support a sector that wants to change the life stories and life chances of the most vulnerable in our society.
This was a year of change, both for the sector and for Clinks, writes DAME ANNE OWERS, Chair of Clinks. The sector has been coming to terms with the implications and the actual implementation of the Transforming Rehabilitation agenda, whose consequences both for service users and those supporting them are still far from clear
At the same time, a new government was signalling a more positive approach towards work in prisons, particularly education, and a renewed emphasis on the need to strengthen people’s capacity for change.
This, and the greater focus on localism, plays to the strengths of the voluntary sector, as this report makes clear. However, at the same time the financial pressures and uncertainties are also testing its resilience, particularly for smaller, specialist organisations providing tailored support to particular groups and working with some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people.
Clinks too has seen a big change. For 17 years, Clive Martin has guided Clinks through five governments and countless changes in criminal justice, building up a team whose work is respected throughout the Criminal Justice System. Under him, Clinks has grown to be a crucial and key interface between the voluntary sector and the Government. Clive has championed the voluntary sector’s ability to offer real and lasting innovation, not target-driven quick fixes. He will be much missed – the warmth and vigour of the applause for his wise and insightful speech at our December conference said it all.
We are, however, very fortunate to have recruited Anne Fox as our new Chief Executive Officer. Anne brings long experience in a range of organisations in the voluntary sector, together with real understanding of the needs and strengths of vulnerable and often marginalised groups, and the role of infrastructure organisations in supporting those who work with them. That commitment and experience will be hugely valuable as Clinks and the sector face the challenges and opportunities of another year.
Pushing for progressive change
Clinks is a catalyst for change from ministerial through to local level. We aim to create positive change for people in the Criminal Justice System by supporting a vibrant and resilient voluntary sector. Our work pushes for positive and progressive change, working with our members to influence policy and practice across England and Wales. This year we have continued to campaign on issues that matter to our members, people in the justice system and their families.
Leading a new approach for young adults
Timely intervention is crucial to assist young adults to make a successful transition to a crime free adulthood. The Clinks and Transition to Adulthood (T2A) alliance’s Effective approaches with young adults guide gives practitioners the tools they need to take a more effective approach with young adults and support their transformation and desistance from crime. The guide presents expertise from practitioners and those with lived experience, highlighting issues around brain development, maturity, chaotic lifestyles, and abuse and neglect in childhood.
Driving change through creativity and inspiration
The arts have a long, established history in supporting rehabilitation and resettlement in prisons and in the community. Evidence shows that engaging in performance and visual arts can contribute positively to desistance from crime. The National Alliance for Arts in Criminal Justice, hosted by Clinks, has gained increasing recognition as an effective advocate for the arts, with a growing membership of almost 700 artists and organisations. This year we have worked with new partners, such as the National Theatre, to create discussion and debate, share practice and performance and highlight the transforming power of art.
Improving health and wellbeing
People in contact with the Criminal Justice System generally have higher health needs and worse health outcomes than the general population. As a Health and Care Voluntary Sector Strategic Partner, we have worked with the Department of Health, NHS England and Public Health England to raise awareness of the health inequalities experienced by offenders and their families, and the essential role of the voluntary sector in helping to address these. We have worked with the Care Quality Commission to transform how they engage effectively with the voluntary sector in their new approach to inspecting health services in secure settings; ensuring improved outcomes for the most vulnerable and marginalised.
We have also heard from hundreds of excellent projects taking place around the country, supporting vulnerable women with their health needs. To understand this work, we mapped health services for women offenders and published good practice case studies highlighting the great work the voluntary sector is doing to address the gaps.
Campaigning for equality, tackling discrimination
Many minority groups are over-represented in the Criminal Justice System and a large proportion of them face some form of discrimination or disadvantage because of being from a minority group. This year we have continued our important work on the Young Review, in partnership with the Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG), to tackle the over-representation of young black and/or Muslim men in the Criminal Justice System. To build on this we published Tackling Inequality in the Criminal Justice System, which presents good practice in tackling the inequalities experienced by older people, gay and bisexual men, people with learning disabilities, and women. We will continue to champion the voice of marginalised groups in the Criminal Justice System.
Responding to multiple and complex needs
Clinks is a founding member of the Making Every Adult Matter (MEAM) Coalition, along with Homeless Link and Mind. The Coalition aims to transform policy and services for the most vulnerable people in our society; those who enter the Criminal Justice System whilst struggling with the complexity of homelessness, addiction and mental ill health.
To truly transform the Criminal Justice System, we must put service user voice at the centre of the debate, ensuring it is heard, understood and acted upon. Working directly with people experiencing multiple needs, and the practitioners who support them, our Voices from the Frontline project brings their voices to the heart of the policy debate. This year we have held workshops and interviews to capture peoples’ experiences, published two policy reports, as well as responses to government consultations and calls for evidence, organised meetings with MPs, and produced an influencing guide for practitioners.
Clinks also provides local support in the North East and South West, supporting them to secure resources to develop a multi-agency approach to supporting adults with multiple and complex needs. Support is given to help demonstrate the positive impact a more coordinated and flexible approach can have on service users and the cost savings for statutory services. Clinks also chairs the refreshed North East Multiple Needs Forum which aims to share good practice and feed in the views of frontline workers at a national level.
Improving what Clinks does
Clinks needs to be led by our members, listen to local experiences, learn from them, and respond positively. An independent review of our work found that what we do is valued and the sector welcomes our role as a critical friend between the diverse interests of the voluntary sector. The report encourages the government to make the most of their relationship with infrastructure organisations like Clinks, recognising its independence and value as a conduit to a large and complicated voluntary sector that fundamentally underpins the effectiveness of rehabilitation and resettlement services in the Criminal Justice System.
Valuing an independent voluntary sector
Clinks provides a collective voice for the voluntary sector working in criminal justice. We aim to represent the sector, from its smallest organisations to its largest providers. We do this by speaking truth to power, lobbying for an independent sector, understanding local needs and having the right relationship with Government to make change possible.
Giving a voice
It is vital that the voluntary sector has an independent and credible voice, to advise and guide policy makers on the ‘grassroots’ impact of proposed reforms. One of the ways we do this is by providing leadership and secretariat to the Ministry of Justice’s Reducing Re-offending Third Sector Advisory Group (RR3).
To ensure a representative presence in a newly configured environment, we refreshed the group’s membership and terms of reference to ensure it can continue to inform NOMS and MoJ in these rapidly changing times.
We have brought together a diverse range of criminal justice experts through an open recruitment process to advise on policy and bring the voluntary sector’s voice closer to national policy development.
Clinks also speaks out for the voluntary sector on numerous forums, including as a member of the NOMS Rehabilitation Forum and the Advisory Board for Female Offenders, so that we can contribute to the development of future strategy in the sector.
Something unpredictable, unique and special often emerges from situations where volunteers bring their talents and enthusiasms to their work with prisoners. Prisons are places where decent human relationships really matter – where ‘normal’ relationships are not the norm, and are all the more valuable as a result.
We are placing the current state of volunteering in prison under the spotlight; talking to organisations that involve volunteers in their work in prisons and gathering information about what supports and hinders good volunteering in prisons.
We gained deep insight into how European Criminal Justice Systems involve volunteers, through our Justice Involving Volunteers in Europe (JIVE) project. We found that England leads the field in terms of volunteer involvement, and that lots of work needs to be done across Eastern European countries to increase their engagement and involvement of volunteers. Our European-wide survey highlighted how organisations select, train and engage volunteers; how volunteers and paid employees work side by side; how organisations structure civil engagement work carried out by volunteers; and where the lines blur between civil society and statutory service provision.
The impact of imprisonment can be considerable on families and particularly damaging to children, who are at least twice as likely to experience mental health problems, be affected by poverty and become isolated and stigmatised.
Clinks is working with voluntary sector organisations that specialise in supporting prisoners’ families to promote the importance of good quality family support work to commissioners, funders, government and beyond. We are committed to building an evidence base of good and innovative practice with families from different backgrounds and with people at different stages in the Criminal Justice System. We aim to build a persuasive argument for the appropriate funding and commissioning of family and relationship support, both in custody and in the community.
Throughout 2015 localism and devolution has come back onto the agenda. Clinks’ local development team is engaged in a diverse range of activities, depending upon local need and opportunity, which encompasses strategic work, brokerage roles and the development of innovative projects. Much of what we do is done in partnership with local organisations and agencies to make sure we’re adapting to local need.
Clinks’ development officers represent the sector on strategic criminal justice bodies and offender health bodies, develop and support provider forums and networks, and lend expertise through membership of project boards. The team provides support to, and information about, the voluntary sector working in criminal justice. They gather frontline intelligence that informs Clinks’ national policy work and strategic direction.
The development team currently focuses on multiple and complex needs, young adults, evidencing outcomes, prison reform, and recent work includes research and good practice publications on commissioning the voluntary sector and the women’s sector.
Capturing local experience
We have a two-way, open and honest dialogue with our members, who regularly share with us their experiences and views. This means that we understand the diverse local realities and can make evidence-based recommendations for change. Because we are well informed by the voluntary sector we can respond quickly and confidently when we’re talking to government and other stakeholders.
Knowing the state of our sector
Understanding how the voluntary sector is faring allows us to lobby on their behalf, and also identify new services we can deliver to support some of the identified needs and issues. The results from our 2015 State of the Sector survey show that the voluntary sector continues to be diverse and resilient. It is also:
- Supporting service users with increasingly complex needs
- Coping with an increasing volume of service users
- Dealing with the barriers to involvement for smaller organisations presented by commissioning and large contracts
- Continuing to see volunteering as vital for the sector
- Using a large amount of time and resource to engage with new probation providers, with varying results
- Highlighting that many organisations are relying on their financial reserves, which is likely to put them at a very real risk of closure.
Evidencing the impact of Transforming Rehabilitation
Clinks has partnered with NCVO and Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) to track the voluntary sector’s involvement in and experience of recent changes to probation and prison services under Transforming Rehabilitation.
Our Early doors report compiles the findings of a preliminary survey, completed by over 150 voluntary sector organisations looking to get involved with new probation providers. The results showed that the voluntary sector has struggled to engage with the complex and slow pace of change, whilst also reporting a negative impact on other sources of funding.
We continue to closely monitor these reforms, and will be reporting more detailed findings in 2016. We believe that the voluntary sector must play a crucial role in resettlement and rehabilitation services if we are going to see a reduction in re-offending, and will continue to lobby for their involvement strategically and operationally.
Showcasing good prisons
Although we all want to see the prison population reduced, we also understand that prison is a critical time in someone’s journey towards rehabilitation. When people are in prison we want to improve their access to the right services at the right time.
Our Good Prison Project is looking into how the voluntary sector can be better involved in prisons. We believe that enabling a strong engagement with the voluntary sector will support the rehabilitation and resettlement of offenders. The project reflects the prison inspectorate’s desire for a rehabilitative, safe and respectful prison system, that enables purposeful activity and through the gate support.
The knowledge gained on this project will help us to know what good rehabilitation looks like. As a result we will create a guide for prisons and other key stakeholders on good practice in working with the voluntary sector, as well as refreshing our volunteering with offenders in prison training course.
A message from Clive Martin
After 17 years, Clive Martin left Clinks in December 2015. He oversaw the development of Clinks as a strong and respected membership body, focused on supporting the inspiring work that the voluntary sector does in the Criminal Justice System. We are eternally grateful for the passion, thoughtfulness and integrity that Clive brought to Clinks and wish him all the best for the future.
Addressing Clinks’ national conference in December 2015, Clive said:
“To my many colleagues – it’s such an enormous honour to have been part of this great movement that remains at the heart of social change and supports the group of people who are still subject to such unthinking prejudice by so many in our community.
“I have got so much more out of my work in criminal justice than I ever put in. And the reason for this is undoubtedly the many offenders I have worked with who have taught me a great deal and inspired me in my own life over the past 25 years.
“I stand amazed by their resilience in the face of a life and system that continues to judge them on the worst thing they have ever done long after it ever happened; their hope for change when there appears to be so little reason that things will; and their own optimism that they will one day be free of their demons and that they will experience, as I do every time I leave a prison, the remarkable sense of my own freedom and the opportunity for my own life.
“To them I say a big thank you, along with all of you as well.”