Transforming Rehabilitation: One year on

Today, in partnership with Clinks and TSRC, we have published Change & Challenge, our second report on the role of the voluntary sector in transforming rehabilitation. In our first report, we highlighted the huge amount of confusion felt by organisations involved in these probation reforms with providers, local authorities and charitable foundations all struggling to understand the new landscape.

More than one year into the programme, although progress has been made, there is still a huge amount of uncertainty. The reforms have taken far longer than expected to bed in and poor communication with the voluntary sector is damaging local relationships. Although it is still relatively early days, there are genuine concerns about the impact that these problems are having on the outcomes of those the programme is supporting.

We also have some serious concerns about the diversity of providers in probation supply chains and the sustainability of voluntary organisations involved in rehabilitation. Read Clinks’ thoughts on the latest report.

Size matters

Over the past few years, one of the key trends in voluntary sector finances has been the strengthening financial position of the largest charities compared to smaller ones. Those organisations with a turnover greater than £10m, and particularly those earning more than £100m a year, are securing a bigger slice of the sector’s overall income, including that received from statutory sources.

While it’s important not to overstate the findings of this report given the relatively small sample size, our data is certainly consistent with the broad trends within the sector. 60% of respondents with a turnover above £5m, including two-thirds with a turnover above £10m, had secured funding from a community rehabilitation company (CRC). By contrast, only 15% of those with a turnover below £1m were acting as a sub-contractor.

It may be that CRCs have contracted with larger, tier 2 providers first and that funding will find its way to smaller, tier 3 providers with time. There is, however, a real risk that smaller, specialist voluntary organisations miss out on funding.

The report makes clear though that the absence of funding does not mean the absence of impact.

Sustainability

Since the start of this project we have been clear that the voices of those outside of CRC supply chains were just as important as those within. Public services do not operate in isolation and the success of probation services will depend to a significant extent on the additional support provided by families, communities and the wider voluntary sector.

We found that around half of the respondents not in receipt of direct funding receive referrals from CRCs and the NPS. In addition, over two-thirds receive referrals directly from prisons. If these organisations fail then it will have a major impact of the success of Transforming Rehabilitation programme. Unfortunately, nearly 60% told us that their funding is not sustainable and over three-quarters of think they should be funded through Transforming Rehabilitation.

Even some CRC-funded organisations are struggling to make the numbers add up. 29% reported subsidising service delivery with their reserves and a third said they are using other funding sources to subsidise the programme.

It must be hoped that these are largely teething problems which will be resolved once the programme gets into its stride. Otherwise, like the Work Programme, we may see providers dropping out of supply chains and others going out of business altogether.

Next steps

Due to the lack of official data on the role of voluntary sector sub-contractors in probation services, we believe that there is an ongoing need to monitor this programme. However, given the drawn-out implementation process, we have decided to delay our third survey until later on in the year. In the meantime, we will continue to work closely with the Ministry of Justice and NOMS to resolve the issues identified in this report.

We are also still keen to hear from you if your organisation is involved in probation services, either directly in a CRC or NPS supply chain, or otherwise supporting prisoner rehabilitation. Please get in touch via email or by posting a comment below.

 

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Nick Davies Nick was NCVO's public services manager until March 2017. He is also a trustee of the South London Relief in Sickness Fund.

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