Crime reduction charity Nacro applies to widen its charitable purposes as it plans merger with Totton College

Jacob Tas, chief executive of Nacro, says the move does not indicate a change in the charity's direction

Totton College
Totton College

The crime reduction charity Nacro has applied to the Charity Commission to widen its charitable purposes as part of plans to merge with a struggling college.

Nacro stepped in as a partner for the Hampshire-based Totton College after it ran into severe financial difficulties after a fall in student numbers.

The deal was first drawn up when the Education Funding Agency approached Nacro about running the college after merger talks with Totton and the nearby Eastleigh College fell through in 2014.

Nacro has had its funding guaranteed by the EFA for the first two years, and the college, its employees, assets and liabilities are due to become part of the charity officially on 1 December.

Nacro, which employs 725 people, works to reduce crime, both by working with ex-offenders and with those in danger of offending.

It already offers skills and training at 25 centres around the country but is seeking to expand its purposes to allow it to focus on further education at the site of Totton College, which has about 3,600 students and 168 full-time-equivalent staff.

Jacob Tas, chief executive of Nacro, told Third Sector the application was a formality.

"Our legal advisers have said there’s no stumbling block at the moment — our current charitable purposes would allow us to offer further education, but we have applied to expand the charitable purposes at the request of the Totton governors, and we felt it was important they were comfortable with the process," he said.

Tas said the merger did not signal a change in the direction of the charity, and that offering vocational education could contribute to the prevention of offending by catching people before they become alienated and pointing them towards employment.

"This is not like we have decided to take a completely different route – we have been providing education for many years and we’re very excited to have been approached by the EFA," Tas said.

"We feel that the country is obsessed with academic achievement, but that’s not for everybody, and many of the people we work with won’t benefit from being pushed down the A level route whether or not it’s right for them.

"The vocational route is about focusing on getting into employment – instead of asking them what course they’d like to do, you ask them what job they want."

Despite the funding guarantee, Tas said, the merger would not be an easy process for the charity.

"We intervened to continue the provision and we have to turn it around, which is no mean feat," he said.

"But we’ve got a strong track record on provision, having turned around our own provision from an Ofsted inadequate grade to a good grade in just over a year two years ago."

The college was previously a sixth-form college, offering academic and vocational education to 16 to 19-year-olds, but due to fewer numbers in this age group and local competition, it has changed its offer to solely vocational education to all those aged over 16.   

A statement from the college said: "It has been agreed by the college’s board of governors that, subject to the conclusion of satisfactory contracts, Nacro will take over the undertaking, assets, staff and students of the college together with agreed contracts and liabilities by way of signing a transfer agreement.

"There is an effective project plan in place and we are aiming to complete the transfer process by 30 November."

A Charity Commission spokesman said: "Nacro has approached us to amend its objects, which would widen its beneficiary class beyond offenders and those at risk of offending.

"These changes require the consent of the Charity Commission and we have requested further information from the trustees on the proposed changes.

"We are unable to comment further on the subject of discussions between Totton College, Nacro and any statutory agencies because they do not fall under our regulatory remit."

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