Acevo meets peers to build support for Noms Bill

Chief executives' group Acevo has urged peers to back the Offender Management Bill ahead of its second reading in the House of Lords on 17 April.

The bill, which would allow voluntary and private sector organisations to bid for contracts to run probation services, is now passing through the upper house after a backbench rebellion almost derailed it in the House of Commons earlier this month.

The bill, which would allow voluntary and private sector organisations to bid for contracts to run probation services, is now passing through the upper house after a backbench rebellion almost derailed it in the House of Commons earlier this month.

Acevo was invited to put its case to a select group of peers from across the political spectrum by justice system and offender management minister Baroness Scotland earlier this week. Head of projects Seb Elsworth said the seven peers had "warmly received" Acevo's case.

The briefing and supporting documents was prepared in conjunction with young offenders' charity Rainer. Head of policy David Chater, who was present at the briefing, agreed that peers has shown "a lot of interest" in the arguments. "I think there is going to be a detailed debate," he said.

After the event, chief executive Stephen Bubb said that the current system of offender management was incapable of delivering the kind of long-term support needed to cut the current 67 per cent re-offending rate.

"We desperately need legislation in order for the sector to be able to deliver the results we are capable of," he said. "We can offer independence, innovation, a focus on prevention and giving service users a voice, but crucially we can join up all the interventions which the individual needs to go straight."

Small charities are wary of the proposals, fearing that plans to commission services at a regional level will favour big charities. But Acevo, which is working with the National Offender Management Service to design a system for tendering and commissioning, stressed to peers that it should be structured in a way that allows organisations of all sizes to get involved.

"A lot of the bill is just enabling legislation," said Chater. "The real benefit will come through a good, streamlined commissioning and structural process. At the moment, regulation and contracting requirements take up a huge amount of time and effectively rule out small charities."  

Both Acevo and Chater also stressed the importance of maintaining local accountability alongside the regional system of commissioning.

The briefing paper, Beating re-offending, the third sector solution, the third sector solution, will be sent to all peers, and can be read online.

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