Altering independence?


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Presentation to Third Sector Research Centre/Auril, University of Birmingham, 27 October 2010

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Altering independence?

  1. 1. Altering independence? Managerial perspectives on the impact of market reforms on the English and Welsh criminal justice voluntary sector Andrew Neilson, Assistant Director The Howard League for Penal Reform
  2. 2. The criminal justice sector • The English and Welsh criminal justice sector has seen a decade of unprecedented expansion • Spending on law and order rose by the equivalent of half a percentage point of GDP between 1999 and 2006 to 2.5 per cent of overall GDP (Solomon et al 2007)
  3. 3. What has all this expansion meant for the voluntary sector? • We know the broad voluntary and community sector (VCS) has experienced year-on-year increases in statutory funding since 2000 • Reasonable to expect the criminal justice VCS has also benefited from this
  4. 4. However, the picture is unclear • Mapping voluntary and community sector organisations (VCOs) working with “offenders and their families is made more difficult and more complex by the fact that organisations are funded and commissioned from a wide variety of sources. Statistics are not yet available from prisons and those from probation need updating” (Ministry of Justice 2008)
  5. 5. Recent reforms • The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) was established in 2004, merging prison and probation services to create ‘end-to-end offender management’ • NOMS introduced ‘contestability’, creating a market in corrections • Definitive strategy for engaging VCS only published in 2008 - four years after NOMS was first formed
  6. 6. Nacro’s bid to ‘run a prison’ • In 2008 it was reported that criminal justice VCO Nacro had joined a consortium with private security company G4S to bid for the building and running of new prisons • Ultimately, Nacro lost out on their bids to another consortium led by Serco. This consortium included the VCOs Catch 22 and Turning Point
  7. 7. My research • Interviews with six senior managers in the criminal justice VCS • VCOs selected: a major service provider, a small service provider, a campaign group, a user-led organisation, an infrastructure body and a funder • Looking at the impact of these market reforms on the criminal justice VCS • In particular, looking at impact on the concept of voluntary sector independence
  8. 8. Independence means the freedom for VCOs to... • Agree values based on their own experience and vision and not external pressures • Carry out work that delivers the stated purpose of the organisation • Negotiate robustly with funders and partners • Challenge others and engage in public debate (Baring Foundation 2006)
  9. 9. Findings: impact of market reforms • Market reform has created confusion in government and in the VCS • There is suspicion in the VCS as to the government’s motives in relation to market reform
  10. 10. Mixed motives “I think part of the government genuinely believed in the good of the voluntary sector. Other parts of it were just happy to use the voluntary sector as a respectable way of opening up the market to something it thought others wouldn’t like, which was the private sector, and others have genuinely thought about it as a way of reforming criminal justice”
  11. 11. Findings: impact of market reforms • Market reforms have led to an increased business focus in criminal justice VCOs, with an emphasis on efficiency and improved accountability • While this was broadly welcomed by most participants, the majority also expressed some reservations as to whether contestability was the best mechanism to deliver these outcomes
  12. 12. The business focus: one perspective... “ makes more sense for us to work in a way that maximises the proportion of the income that we have in delivery of the services to our users. So in other words, maximising your potential in terms of your social purpose. For me, that’s a solid argument for behaving more like a business.”
  13. 13. The business focus: another perspective... “It’s very sad when you see charities carbon copying each other and cutting each other’s throats to get a contract. And actually selling out the client group to get a contract...a lot of charities are quite willing to go down the tick-box route, do what the contract says and not go beyond that because they’re not getting paid for it.”
  14. 14. Findings: impact of market reforms • Market reforms were universally seen by participants as being negative for small VCOs • As with TSRC working paper, participants identified a gap between the rhetoric and reality around commissioning
  15. 15. Findings: VCOs in consortiums to manage prisons • There was a perceived lack of transparency to these bids • A tension between ‘what works’ and ideology • The majority expressed concern about potential conflicts of interest for the VCOs involved
  16. 16. VCOs ‘running’ prisons: one perspective... “...from a voluntary sector point of view, you get in early, you get to influence the debate and the agenda, you get to work in an environment where you can deliver high quality work get actually for your staff to work in decent conditions...It makes it conducive for the delivery of high quality work for our service users, which is what it’s all about.”
  17. 17. VCOs ‘running’ prisons: another perspective... “You can’t be a carer and a jailer..if you are there to support ex-offenders and their families or you’re there in a supportive role, you can’t be there locking them up as well. It sends conflicting must be soul destroying to walk in an office and know that your campaign says one thing and your posters say one thing, but you’re actually doing another and basically, you’re a fraud.”
  18. 18. Findings: voluntary sector independence • Participants defined independence as particular: ie. independence as representing the individual organisation, its existence and independence of action • Participants also defined independence as general: ie. relating independence to the sector as whole, and what makes the sector distinct and different
  19. 19. Findings: voluntary sector independence • Independence is at threat for small VCOs in a very real way: ie. market pressures mean their very existence is under threat • Fears around government motives and instrumentality threaten independence of action
  20. 20. Independence and instrumentality “...the dialogue between the sector and the State is much more frequent, it’s much more familiar, it’s much wider, it happens around a lot of different service areas...while all those conversations have increased, they’ve increased around business matters, if you like, rather than wider social concern issues.”
  21. 21. Independence and instrumentality “[I wonder] whether the government and whether commissioners and NOMS really do see any value in the voluntary sector or whether it’s lip’s tempting to see it as lip service at the moment because there’s nothing in place to really assist the voluntary sector in stepping up to the role it needs to take...are we the window dressing for some really rather nasty things, or are we at the heart of delivery?”
  22. 22. Findings: voluntary sector independence • Independence in the sense of distinctiveness is also at threat through a blurring of the private, voluntary and statutory sectors • At the same time, this blurring is leading to a divide in the existing voluntary sector which is likely to widen in the near future
  23. 23. The future for criminal justice: cuts, with or without results • Ministry of Justice faces six per cent year on year cuts for the next four years after comprehensive spending review • Target to reduce prison population by 3,000 and plans to build a new 1,500 place prison dropped • Introducing a ‘payment by results’ model in the community which will seek to expand private and voluntary sector provision of statutory services
  24. 24. Thank you