The opportunities for the voluntary sector in criminal justice
That was the title of the event held by the Centre for Social Justice yesterday (23 July 2013) to coincide with their research on the voluntary sector’s work in the criminal justice field.
The Justice Secretary Chris Grayling was the headline speaker at the event.
I went hoping to hear news of the latest developments in Transforming Rehabilitation.
The pace of this reform means that there are many core issues still to be decided – even though the procurement process is due to start formally on 23 August.
I was particularly hoping to get some indication of changes to the MoJ Straw Man payment mechanism for the new reducing reoffending contracts and the role of payment by results.
However, no new information was announced.
Instead, the Justice Secretary stuck to his core message:
- Reoffending rates have been too high for too long.
- Resettlement prisons will enable work with short term prisoners who reoffending rates are particularly high.
- We need a partnership approach with the best skills of the public, private and voluntary sectors.
Mr Grayling seems finally to have given up talking about “old lags” – the new term apparently is: “former offender gone straight”.
Given the title and focus of the event, it was unsurprising that he focused on the voluntary sector, his core message was that voluntary sector expertise was critical to reducing reoffending.
Neither G4S, Serco nor electronic tagging were mentioned.
Nonetheless, there was a shift in emphasis that presumably owed more than something to recent events:
“It is not my objective to give contracts to big companies with no experience in re- offending”
“I don’t want sub-prime contracts, but genuine partnerships”
Mr Grayling went on to acknowledge recent concerns more directly:
“I think the MoJ needs a greater supplier base.”
“We can’t be dependent on too small a number of suppliers.”
He announced that the MoJ would be holding a trade fair in the Autumn to open up their procurement practices and invite more suppliers to compete.
The proof, as always, will be in the pudding.
Will we see a real mixed economy with genuine local partnerships which include probation mutuals and voluntary sector providers of all sizes?
Or will a small number of large private providers win most of the reducing reoffending contracts by their ability to discount on price?
We should know the answer by the end of 2014.