No target for sector to deliver re-offender services

The National Offender Management Service will not set a target for involving third sector organisations in delivering its services over the next three years.

Chief executives body Acevo had been urging Noms, which commissions services that prevent re-offending, to pledge to outsource 10 per cent of its work to third sector organisations.

But the Noms report Working with the Third Sector to Reduce Re-offending, published this week, does not commit to a target.

"We need to keep pushing for this target," said Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo. "Members are frustrated. They provide good, responsive services and want to do more, yet they find serious institutional resistance."

Bubb nevertheless described the document, which sets out Noms' plans for 2008-11, as a "worthwhile exercise" and said the organisation, which is based in the Ministry of Justice, was "inching towards progress" by including measures designed to increase the voluntary sector's involvement in helping re-offenders.

The report says £2.3m will be spent over three years on encouraging the sector to deliver more services. This includes a £600,000 grants programme for third sector infrastructure organisations to advise charities that reduce re-offending.

It also commits to measuring every two years how much prison and probation funding is awarded to voluntary organisations and promoting the use of social benefit clauses in service specifications, which could make charities a more attractive proposition for commissioners.

The report acknowledges that the consultation stage uncovered "disappointment and frustration in relation to commissioning opportunities for the third sector to deliver more prison and probation services" and that third sector organisations had requested "clarity on the potential scale and scope of future opportunities".

But instead of setting targets for charity involvement, the report says Noms will strive for "competitive neutrality across all providers, by reducing barriers to involvement".

Jackie Worrall, director of policy and public affairs at Nacro, which works with re-offenders, said she was pleased to see targeted strategies for dealing with female offenders and black and ethnic minority offenders.

"The rhetoric is fine but it all depends if the resources are there to put anything into practice," she said.

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