One of the government’s stated objectives of TR was to “open up the market” and to enhance the role of the third sector. This has not materialized, and the impact of TR has been to shut out many small third sector and private sector organisations: the partnership agencies essential to probation to enable a wide range of providers and services to be offered to clients.
The charity Clinks has explained how the third sector lost faith in the private contractors after they had been shunned in the delivery models, or simply used as “bid candy” to secure contracts. The NPS now has to go to the CRCs for services that could be obtained more cheaply if they went directly to voluntary organisations.
CRCs have preferred to do work in-house (in effect creating local monopolies) as a way of raising additional revenue. A HMIP in April 2018 confirmed the failure saying that targets did not exist for CRCs on the proportion of their supply chain which should be provided by the voluntary sector. It explained that at the contract bidding stage CRCs had been required to include details of their supply chains plans, including the involvement of the voluntary sector. However, “CRC intentions (as expressed in their bids) were not then hard wired into CRC contracts”.
The most recent HMI Probation Inspectorate report (2019) found that the proportion of criminal justice third-sector voluntary organisations now working directly with CRCs (October 2018) was only 11%. While a survey by Clinks (May 2018) provided further evidence of low voluntary sector involvement. Of the 132 organisations who responded to their survey, only 35% received funding from CRCs and just two organisations received funding from the NPS.
The Justice Select Committee Inquiry reported in 2018: “It seems that the third sector is less involved than ever in probation services, despite its best efforts; yet, many under probation supervision need the sector’s specialist help, to turn their lives around”.
A number of charities and voluntary organisations in the justice sector gave oral evidence to the Inquiry. One charity, YSS Ltd, said that with regard to voluntary sector involvement it felt like they had “taken a step back”. Shelter told the committee that the reason for its reduced involvement was the financial pressures facing CRCs which had resulted in them having to make budget cuts. Another charity, Pact, said TR had “opened up the market to a greater extent for larger organisations that have more capital, a bigger capital base and bigger capability to manage the risk involved”, but there were one of the few small and medium-sized organisations in the market. While the charity Switchback, claimed that “most of the smaller voluntary sector organisations work[ed] outside the formal contracting framework” due to the contractual pressures.
The JSC inquiry concluded: “In our view the Government has failed to open up the probation market, a key aim of the Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. We are not convinced by the Minister’s comments that the voluntary sector is more involved in probation than before the TR reforms. The decreased involvement of the voluntary sector, especially that of smaller local organisations, is deeply regrettable and reduces the quality and array of services available to individuals on probation. This has resulted in fewer local and specialist services being offered. We are concerned that currently the details of supply chains of probation providers are not publicly available and therefore it is not possible to fully assess the scale of the voluntary sector’s involvement.”
Napo will be hosting a drop-in session for MPs on 1st of May to put this, and seven other reasons to reunify the probation service to MPs.
If you haven’t already done so, complete the postcard and send it back to your local MP encouraging them to join the fight to make sure the probation service is able to rehabilitate clients, keep the public safe and to protect your profession.
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