Acevo representatives met Home Office policy-makers yesterday to discuss the commissioning framework for voluntary sector organisations that apply to run probation services under the new National Offender Management Services Bill.
The Bill, which is expected to be announced in the Queen's Speech today, has led to concerns in some quarters that offender-support charities will become too close to government or lose their independence.
"There is a potential tension there that will need to be carefully managed," said Seb Elsworth, policy and development officer at Acevo. "The key issue here is the separation between the voluntary sector and the state. This will come down to the procurement and commissioning framework that we are discussing with the Home Office."
Rainer, the Langley House Trust, Nacro, Crime Concern and Sova will all be applying for contracts under the Noms tendering process.
However, William Higham, head of policy at the Prison Reform Trust, warned charities to be cautious. "The worry would be that some of the charities providing services are also campaigning organisations," he said. "They might find it difficult to strike a balance between providing the best services in the world as it is now and campaigning for a new and better system."
Joyce Moseley, chief executive of Rainer, argued that such charities would in fact be in a far stronger position. "We can use the wealth of evidence we have to influence and change how government operates and makes policy," she said. "That may not be a loud, shouting, campaigning role, but it is still influential."
- See Feature, page 16.