Not-for-profit bodies make up about half the organisations interested in winning prime contracts under the Transforming Rehabilitation programme, according to data compiled by Clinks, the infrastructure body for rehabilitation charities.
About 80 organisations have expressed an interest in taking on prime provider roles, according to the data, which is taken from expressions of interest submitted to the Ministry of Justice.
A quarter are registered UK charities and another quarter are not-for-profit organisations, including mutuals spun out of existing probation trusts, social enterprises, foreign charities, and charitable colleges and housing associations, according to Clinks.
The Ministry of Justice announced last month that 399 voluntary organisations will compete to take part in the Transforming Rehabilitation programme, which will involve 35 probation trusts being replaced with 21 prime contractors with responsibility for managing probation for low and medium-risk offenders.
Prime contractors will enter into top-level contracts with the Ministry of Justice; second and third-tier contractors will form the remainder of the supply chain through subcontracts.
Clive Martin, director of Clinks, said he was pleased by the level of not-for-profit involvement in the programme, but was cautious about whether sector organisations would find themselves with the capacity to bid for prime provider contracts.
"At the moment there isn’t much detail," he said. "We aren’t sure that the high level of interest will lead to anything. At the moment all you have to do is tick a box to say that you’re interested. You don’t have to meet any criteria.
"The detail is so vague that there’s little understanding of the risk capacity or scale required. So the drop-out rate of sector organisations might prove to be quite high.
"I’m hopeful, but not certain, that sector organisations will win some prime contracts. I’m not sure whether they’ll be existing organisations or spin-outs from the probation trusts.
"But we do expect the majority of actual service delivery to be carried out by the voluntary sector – mostly smaller organisations."