Voluntary organisations that work with people in the criminal justice system have reported uncertainty over funding arrangements during the introduction of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation reforms, according to research commissioned by the criminal justice charity umbrella body Clinks.
The finding arose from 156 responses to a questionnaire circulated in May, the first of three surveys planned by Clinks and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations to track the impact of the offender management reforms on the voluntary sector.
The report, Early Doors: The Voluntary Sector’s Role in Transforming Rehabilitation, says that the pace of change has been slow, leaving many voluntary sector organisations "in a state of limbo", waiting to see if or how they will be involved in service delivery, making planning difficult.
The reforms split the former Probation Trusts into two new entities, regional Community Rehabilitation Companies and the National Probation Service, separating out the offender management of those who pose a high risk of harm to the public (managed by the NPS), and those who pose a low-to-medium risk of harm (managed by CRCs).
The Ministry of Justice announced its preferred bidders to run the 21 CRCs in October, with contracts expected to be worth up to £450m in total. Three-quarters of the 300 subcontractors named were voluntary sector or mutual organisations.
Slightly more than half (54 per cent) of respondents to the Clinks survey, which was anonymised, reported that their funding had not been affected by Transforming Rehabilitation; 46 per cent said it had.
Of the 65 respondents who said it had and provided further comment, less than 10 per cent said their funding had improved and about 35 per cent said funding had reduced.
Among those that reported an improved funding position, the reasons given included new contracts with CRCs and newly negotiated grants provided by the NPS.
In the case of those who said funding had gone down, the reasons given included a reduction in funding by CRCs or the NPS and a reduction in funding by other funders, such as other government organisations or charitable foundations, because they expected the organisations to be funded by CRCs.
The remaining portion of the 65 respondents said that they had a considerable sense of uncertainty over their funding, with some interim funding measures being used. A number of organisations said they expected cuts to existing services pending renegotiation.
Nathan Dick, head of policy and communications at Clinks, said: "The voluntary sector is central to the genuine transformation of rehabilitation and resettlement services and, although it is early doors, we have heard clear warning signals that many organisations remain on the sidelines, and others are fundamentally questioning their sustainability. This requires our immediate and ongoing attention."
Some but not all of the 156 respondents to the survey are among the organisations named as preferred bidders last year.
Almost half – 49 per cent – of respondents reported that they expected their work to be funded through a CRC tier 3 contract; 20 per cent said they expected their work to be funded through a CRC tier 2 contract.
Tier 3 contracts are for small providers. Tier 2 contracts are for larger providers, covering a wider geographical area.