Voluntary sector organisations working with offenders continue to be dogged by financial uncertainty, according to the latest State of the sector report from Clinks. A survey of organisations ranging from small volunteer-led community groups to those employing upwards of 2,000 staff found that many were now relying on their reserves, putting them ‘at risk of closure’, and that the majority rarely recover their costs on the contracts they deliver.
While the needs of service users are becoming increasingly complex, organisations are having to rely more and more on volunteers, says the document, with an average of nearly two volunteers for every member of paid staff. Policy changes such as welfare reforms, meanwhile, had also had a negative impact on service users’ mental health, financial stability and ability to find appropriate accommodation.
‘The tension between increasing demand for services and decreasing access to funding continues to erode the sector’s ability to provide quality at the required scale,’ said Clinks director Clive Martin. The reality of this situation needs to be acknowledged; otherwise it will become too burdensome for staff and the communities they work in.’
Commissioners could help address the situation by making sure that procurement processes were accessible and efficient, he added, while initiatives like payment by results (PbR) – although still relatively limited – took up a ‘large amount of policy rhetoric and staff time’ and created ‘unwelcome uncertainty’.
State of the sector 2015 at www.clinks.org