The House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts inquiry into Transforming Rehabilitation accepted evidence from Clinks, NCVO, TSRC and Women’s Breakout. The report has been published and even though gender specific recommendations didn’t make it specifically into the conclusions or summary, our evidence has been cited in the body of the report (see pages p11/12):
11. Voluntary organisations raised the quality of services delivered to female offenders as a particular concern, as women have different needs in respect of the services that will support them to stop reoffending. There is a statutory responsibility on CRCs to provide services for women but services are inconsistent across England and Wales as the statutory responsibility is not supported by more detailed specification.34 We received evidence highlighting concerns about the decline in CRC funding for women’s services, as well as perverse incentives to focus on contract performance rather than service quality.35 The Ministry emphasised that the closure of HMP Holloway, announced in November 2015, provides an opportunity to rethink the shape and size of the female prison estate. It expects that the closure will result in a different way of accommodating women prisoners and fewer women in prison.36 The Committee will follow closely developments in the women’s prison estate and the impact this has on probation services.
The conclusions (see page 7) also state:
6. We are concerned that the full potential of the third sector is not being realised.
The inquiry found that:
- Progress has been slow and the revolution promised has not been realised as yet.
- Voluntary sector organisations, deemed central to the programme at the outset are not being engaged effectively.
- Measures to reduce reoffending and transform services, including for those people serving shorter sentences were not having the intended results.
- Services were varied and there were challenges in determining good outcomes from issues relating to data and the protracted negotiations with the prime contractors.
- The reforms had not managed to open the probation system up to a wider group of providers, especially smaller voluntary sector organisations.
- Lessons need to be learned from a narrowing of the market to a small number of private sector providers, excluding even the larger voluntary sector organisations from competing on a level playing field.
Commenting on the report, Anne Fox Chief Executive Officer of Clinks said:
‘We all need our probation services to be the best they can, but right now they appear inconsistent and lacking in real innovation. To revolutionise and transform rehabilitation the voluntary sector’s expertise of working in innovative ways with impressive results needs to be fully involved. However, the Public Accounts Committee has recognised that the full potential of the voluntary sector is not being realised.
We have also heard concerns about the quality of services being delivered, particularly to people serving short prison sentences and those being offered to women in the justice system. The voluntary sector has solutions to these issues and needs to be central to reforming these services.’