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The state of the criminal justice voluntary sector in 2018
Clinks finds charities trying to plug gaps in offender services caused by austerity.

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Key trends

Last Thursday (29 November 2018) Clinks published the sixth edition of its State of the Sector reports, highlighting key trends for voluntary sector organisations working in the criminal justice system.

The 2018 report presents detailed information about what services organisations are delivering, to whom and how organisations are funded to do this.

This year’s edition includes an additional thematic focus exploring how organisations are recognising and responding to the particular needs and vulnerabilities of people protected under the Equalities Act (2010) and what barriers they face in doing this.

The report’s headline findings are:

  • Charities and social enterprises are working relentlessly, in difficult circumstances, to support increasing numbers of people who are coming to them with more complex and urgent needs. They’re responding by developing and delivering new services and working in partnership to share knowledge and resources but increasing caseloads are putting staff and volunteers under pressure.
  • Organisations supporting people with protected characteristics under the 2010 Equality Act, including from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, and people with disabilities, are being hit the hardest by the challenging funding environment, and are seeing more people with complex issues in need of immediate attention.
  • Charities and social enterprises working in prisons and the community are seeing urgent housing needs, substance misuse problems and poor mental health soar, as funding cuts to public services including prison and probation take hold.
  • Alongside this, welfare reform, particularly the roll out of Universal Credit, Personal Independent Payments and sanctions are pushing people into poverty and leaving them unable to access accommodation.
  • The sector continues to face a challenging financial environment, where organisations are reliant on grants and are unlikely to meet their costs, while often having to subsidise services they are contracted to provide.
  • Statutory organisations referring people to the voluntary sector are not providing adequate funding meaning organisations need to subsidise funding from other sources, including from charitable trusts and foundations
  • Charitable trusts and foundations continue to provide essential grant funding to charities, especially those providing specialist community-based services.

If you work in the sector, or commission services for offenders, I strongly recommend you read the whole report. However, for those of you without the time to do so, I’ve picked out some facts that I found to be of particular interest. 

Client numbers keep increasing

55% of the 193 organisations who responded to Clinks’ survey were working with more service users in 2016/17 than the year before.

Needs are becoming more complex

For the second consecutive year organisations told Clinks that service user need is becoming more complex (80% respondents ) and urgent (78%) as people’s basic needs are no longer being met. This is taking place for a variety of reasons including welfare reforms which are pushing people into poverty and homelessness, a lack of secure and appropriate housing options, mental health provision in the community becoming more difficult to access, and limited resources for criminal justice organisations.

The sector is under severe financial pressure

Specialist criminal justice organisations have fewer reserves on average than the UK voluntary sector. On average, specialist criminal justice organisations had 1.3 months of reserves available in 2015/16 whilst non-specialist criminal justice organisations had an average of 2.5 months of reserves for the same financial year. UK voluntary organisations had an average of around 6 months of reserves in 2015/16.

The voluntary sector subsidises statutory provision

Statutory organisations referring people to the voluntary sector do not provide adequate funding. This is particularly true for referrals from prisons and the National Probation Service. In around half of referrals from these services, all funding to support people comes from other sources. This is also the case for 40% of referrals made by Community Rehabilitation Companies.


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