Probation services talks initiated by Futurebuilders

Futurebuilders England has had talks with justice minister David Hanson about voluntary groups delivering probation services.

Richard Gutch, chief executive of Futurebuilders, said he had instigated the meeting, which also included representatives from 13 sector organisations, to argue for the importance and cost-effectiveness of the sector’s role in delivering crime services and to make sure the sector is involved in the six pathfinder probation trusts that will begin commissioning in April.

Probation trusts were established by the Offender Management Act, which received royal assent in July. But Gutch said there was still a lot of frustration in the sector at the slow progress of change. “This process has been going on for three years and people don’t feel anything has happened,” he said.

He added that some organisations might be put off from making bids to Futurebuilders because they feared losing out to the private sector when bidding for contracts, unless there were examples of successful pathfinder bids.

Crime is one of Futurebuilders’ six priority areas for funding, but Gutch said it had always been the sector with the lowest number of bids and the least amount of funding, accounting for just 6 per cent of current loans.

He said it was important to promote a “joined-up approach” to commissioning between the National Offender Management Service and bodies that provide the other 50 per cent of funding in the criminal justice sector – such as the Department for Communities and Local Government’s Supporting People programme and the Learning & Skills Council.

“With the right investment and political support, the next 18 months should see good practice models of partnership working being developed,” Gutch said.

He added that Hanson had confirmed his commitment to a “definitive role for the sector to help prevent re-offending”.

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