The Transforming Rehabilitation programme might have led to grant funding for prison charities falling by about 50 per cent in one year, new research suggests.
A report published today by the charity think tank NPC, called Independent, Effective, Humane: The Case for Funding Charities in the Prison System, says charities carry out "hugely important" work in prisons, which is possible only because of their independence from the system itself.
The report says a "light-touch" analysis of data from 360Giving, which supports grant-makers to publish information, showed there appeared to be a fall of about 50 per cent in independent grant funding to charities working in the criminal justice system between 2013 and 2014, from £37.1m to £18.4m.
"This was the first year of Transforming Rehabilitation and suggests funders may respond directly to policy upheaval – by pausing their funding," the report says.
"Although funding levels appear to have recovered, with renewed uncertainty about the future of probation services in 2019 charities need commitment and stability from funders."
The report says independent funding is particularly vital to prison and criminal justice charities because their beneficiaries are an unpopular group, meaning fundraising from the public is extremely difficult.
"But this reliance is risky, when funders may be concerned about putting money into a chaotic system," it says.
Under the Transforming Rehabilitation programme, the government abolished 35 probation trusts and awarded contracts to 21 community rehabilitation companies to manage low to medium-risk offenders in England and Wales.
Voluntary sector involvement in the scheme was far lower than the government had initially hoped. The Ministry of Justice announced last month that it would bring an end to the scheme next year and move responsibility for the offenders back into the public sector.
Researchers interviewed representatives from charities working in prisons, plus funders, policy-makers, parliamentarians, prison governors and people who have spent time in prison.