Offender charity insists on its 'point of principle'

Helen Barrett

A charity working with drug-using offenders has secured an official agreement that it will not be obliged to report clients who fail to come to appointments.

The Revolving Doors Agency, a charity offering support services for people with mental illnesses involved in crime, told the National Offender Management Service (Noms) that, if it were chosen as a service provider in April 2007, it would not be able to accept any service provision contracts that included "coercive" clauses.

The charity was specifically concerned that Noms might include clauses that would compel the charity to report service users who broke the terms of their offender agreements by not attending appointments. It felt that such a clause would compromise its commitment to remaining outside the system to work with people according to their needs.

"Sticking to this principle was more important to us than the possibility of losing funding," said Nick O'Shea, director of development at the charity.

"We took our argument to the Noms regional offender manager, Steve Murphy, who was very understanding. We explained how the value of the third sector lies in its non-coercive role.

"If our clients miss appointments, we keep going with them because we know they are hard to engage," said O'Shea. "But with such a clause, if they put in a no-show, they might be subject to the same sanctions as if they had missed a probation order appointment."

The charity discussed the issue with Noms through the Partners in Reducing Re-offending programme, a London-based group of charities working to build services including housing and help for drug users in the Noms market.

KEY POINTS

- Revolving Doors has secured a commitment from Noms not to include "coercive" clauses in future service contracts

- It feared that such clauses would compel it to report clients who broke their offender agreements

- Sticking to this principle was seen by the charity as more important than maintaining funding.

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