Government plans to involve charities in rehabilitating offenders have failed, according to a report published today.
Under Represented, Under Pressure, Under Resourced: The Voluntary Sector in Transforming Rehabilitation, says voluntary sector involvement in the Ministry of Justice programme is lower than claimed, unsustainable and requires many charities to dip into their own reserves to maintain services.
The report, published by the criminal justice umbrella body Clinks in association with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Third Sector Research Centre is the third and final document published as part of the TrackTR partnership, which monitors the sector's involvement in Transforming Rehabilitation.
Based on an online survey of 132 voluntary organisations working in the criminal justice sector, it makes 11 recommendations for improvement.
Under Transforming Rehabilitation, which began in February 2015, 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.
Ministers said the voluntary sector was central to the scheme's success and 75 per cent of the 300 subcontractors named in the initial successful bids were voluntary sector or mutual organisations.
But only 35 per cent of those surveyed for this report said they were funded by CRCs.
The report says the sector "has not been central" to the programme, adding: "Many smaller organisations have not been engaged in any meaningful way."
One in three respondents to the survey thought their funding agreement was at risk of failure before the end of the contract or within the next six months.
A third said they were subsidising services from charitable reserves or other funding sources, and more than half said Transforming Rehabilitation had had a negative or very negative impact on their organisations.
The report makes 11 recommendations, which include requiring the CRCs and the National Probation Service to publish quarterly details of supply chains as well as data on how much funding has been awarded to subcontractors to improve transparency.
It also recommends that HM Prison & Probation Service and the MoJ work with Clinks, CRC owners, the National Probation Service and prisons to find ways to engage more voluntary sector providers.
Anne Fox, chief executive of Clinks, said: "Up and down the country, charities large and small are using their charitable funds to cover the costs they need to support a stretched probation system. This approach can’t continue.
"Our recommendations are designed to make a difference and assist in understanding what the next generation of probation services could look like."
Karl Wilding, policy director at the NCVO, said "persistent structural problems" had left many charities "shut out and left in economically unsustainable positions".
An MoJ spokesman said: "As this report highlights, there have been challenges facing CRCs seeking to involve the voluntary sector in the delivery of probation services.
"We value enormously the expertise and experience of the voluntary sector and want to ensure they can contribute fully to the delivery of probation services.
"Our probation reforms mean we are now monitoring 40,000 offenders who would previously have been released with no supervision at all.
"We continue to work closely with providers to embed our reforms and help offenders to turn away from crime."