The state of the criminal justice voluntary sector in 2019

Clinks State of the Sector report finds charities are still subsidising government contracts because they cannot achieve full cost recovery.

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Key trends

Last Thursday (21 November 2019) Clinks published the seventh edition of its State of the Sector reports, highlighting key trends for voluntary sector organisations working in the criminal justice system.

The 2019 report presents detailed information about what services organisations are delivering, to whom and how organisations are funded to do this.

The findings include lots of information about the important and high quality work going on in the sector, give us a lot to celebrate, but the picture built up over the years shows there are a number of deep-seated and systemic challenges facing organisations. To ensure a vibrant, independent and resilient voluntary sector these need to be addressed.

This year’s report is based on 245 survey responses.

The report’s headline findings are:

The people voluntary organisations support

  • Organisations are supporting increasing numbers of people
  • Organisations set up specifically to provide tailored support to, or have a tailored service for, people with protected characteristics are more likely to say service user numbers have risen
  • For the third year in a row, Clinks found that service user need is becoming more complex and more urgent
  • Over a third of organisations continue to report that staff are having to take on larger caseloads to meet growing service user need
  • Organisations are increasing partnership work with other voluntary organisations to meet the growing complexity and urgency of service user need
  • Organisations continue to prioritise the involvement of service users in the design and delivery of services.

The services being delivered

  • The majority of organisations said they are expanding their services and doing so in a variety of ways
  • The majority of referrals to voluntary organisations’ services come from prisons
  • The workforce of voluntary organisations working in criminal justice is rising
  • Voluntary organisations working in criminal justice rely on volunteers
  • Larger organisations are more likely to be recruiting more volunteers.

How services are funded

  • Specialist criminal justice organisations remain smaller than non-specialist criminal justice organisations
  • Government is the largest source of income for organisations
  • Small specialist criminal justice organisations are more reliant on government grants than contracts
  • The smaller the organisation, the more reliant they are on grant funding from charitable trusts and foundations
  • For the third consecutive year we have found that organisations are subsidising contracts because they cannot achieve full cost recovery
  • Specialist criminal justice organisations receive more funding from local than central government
  • Organisations are increasing their earned income to adapt to reductions in grant funding
  • Criminal justice organisations spend more money on charitable activities and less on generating funds than the wider UK voluntary sector
  • Criminal justice organisations have less reserves on average than the UK voluntary sector as a whole.

The women’s sector

This year’s report contains a dedicated section providing a snapshot of the voluntary sector specialising in work with women in contact with the criminal justice system. Here are the key findings:

  • Organisations providing tailored support to women are more likely (61%) to work locally compared to organisations that do not provide tailored support to women (42%). This indicates organisations providing tailored services to women are embedded in their local communities and by extension are likely to have greater local knowledge and be more responsive to local needs and provision for the women they support.
  • Organisations providing tailored services for women are more likely to have service users with mental health needs and are more likely to provide emotional support and mental health support to service users. This is perhaps unsurprising as many women in contact with the CJS experience high levels of abuse and trauma in their lives and often do not have access to appropriate, gender-specific and trauma-informed support. Organisations delivering tailored support to women are also more likely to provide advocacy support (58% compared to 36%). 44% of organisations that provide tailored support to women also provide family services compared to 29% of organisations that don’t provide tailored support for women. This may reflect the circumstances of women in contact with the CJS as they are more likely to have primary caring responsibilities.
  • Organisations providing tailored support to women were more likely to say the numbers of service users accessing their services has increased. 68% of organisations that provide tailored support for women reported an increase in service users, compared to 59% of organisations that do not. 
  • The majority of organisations set up specifically to support women or that provide a tailored service for women felt that service user needs have become more complex (74%) and more urgent (69%). When we asked for more detail from organisations as to why service user need is becoming more urgent and more complex, some of the responses indicate the damaging impact on women of Universal Credit, mental health needs and experiences of trauma combined with cuts to support services and a lack of gender-specific provision.
  • Organisations that provide a tailored service to women were significantly less likely to report achieving full cost recovery on contracts. Only 20% of organisations that provide tailored support for women reported they always achieve full cost recovery compared to 45% of those that don’t provide tailored support for women. 62% said they only sometimes achieve full cost recovery compared to 40% of organisations that do not provide tailored support to women.

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