Vital community probation services ‘shut out’ in reform of services, say campaigners

Campaigners have raised fears some vital community probation services have lost out on Government funding amid reforms to the system.

The Ministry of Justice announced an initial £195 million will be awarded to charities and companies helping to rehabilitate criminals as the supervision of all offenders on licence and serving community sentences in England and Wales is brought back entirely under public control next month.

Some 26 organisations are to be handed contracts to provide services like housing, employment and training support as part of efforts to cut reoffending.

But charity Clinks raised concerns that some groups have been being given a “back seat” and called for the work of more to be recognised.

The organisation, which supports volunteers working in the criminal justice system, said: “With their long history of providing crucial specialist and local support to help people in the criminal justice system turn their lives around, it’s time voluntary organisations were recognised as truly valued partners to deliver probation services. But, many are again being shut out or given a back seat.”

It added that the funding will not go far enough and claimed some groups missed out on the money because of a complicated application process, adding: “The investment in women’s services doesn’t fully fund everything these organisations do or need.

“The process was so complex that organisations chose not to or were unable to get involved.”

Dr Kate Paradine, chief executive of charity Women in Prison, said some organisations had “lost out”, adding: “Although it’s a relief that a number of specialist women’s services have secured some funding to help them maintain vital services, we are concerned that others have lost out, due to a contracting process that rewards size over expertise.

“This locks out smaller local women’s centres that provide support tailored to women’s needs, simply because they do not have the resources to dedicate to excessively bureaucratic applications.”

But other organisations welcomed the reforms.

Laura Seebohm, executive director at Changing Lives, said: “We see this as a genuine commitment to developing locally led solutions to help women stop offending and build positive lives.

“Our experience has taught us that to help women stop offending and to rebuild their lives, we must address the underlying causes of crime.

“We know that with the right support around them, women so often are able to break the cycle of crisis and crime.”

Campbell Robb, chief executive of social justice charity Nacro, which has been commissioned to provide accommodation and wellbeing probation services, said: “We are looking forward to playing a central role in delivering positive outcomes to thousands of people as part of the reunified probation service.

“It is good to see a focus on wellbeing and holistic support to reducing reoffending as part of this. Long-term investment in stable, suitable accommodation is also essential to this.”

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