The role of charities in rehabilitation reform

The big unknown in Transforming Rehabilitation is whether the voluntary sector will be properly involved, writes the editor of Third Sector

Stephen Cook
Stephen Cook

Transforming Rehabilitation is a fancy name for an experiment in criminal justice that everyone regards as radical and many as risky. It's radical because it aims to support all short-sentence prisoners, before and after release, in the hope of reducing reoffending; and it's risky because it is untested, outsourced and tightly funded.

Setting aside whether it's right to dismantle the Probation Service, leaving a rump to deal with serious offenders only, the big question for the sector is whether it will be properly involved in the new venture, as promised by ministers. The answer in our analysis on pages 32 to 35 of our July issue is that some signs are good and others more ominous. The big private sector contractors are in the driving seat and may well cut back on charity sector subcontractors.

Between 1965 and 1975 an expanding welfare state, by contrast, was firmly rooted in the public sector and expanding with cross-party support. The charity veteran and academic Ian Bruce recently sketched an entertaining contrast between then and now at a well-attended meeting of the Voluntary Action History Society. Those too young to remember life without the internet should read our feature on pages 36 to 38 about the days of revolting students, off-colour demos – and, partly as a result, some serious social progress.

Cyrenians was founded in the sixties and is still going strong in many cities, mainly looking after single homeless people. Over the years the charity in Tyneside drifted away from the others, competing with them for contracts and going for growth. It has been very successful. Our analysis on pages 43 to 45 reveals a contrast in philosophies: the question is, which is the most effective in dealing with deep social problems?

We start a new column this month: Purely Academic, page 17, features the latest research from think tanks and universities. Professor John Mohan kicks it off.

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