Short term funding creating instability for VCS supporting the criminal justice sector

The positive contribution made by the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector to the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland has been recognised in a new inspection report published today (Tuesday 30 April 2019) by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland. (CJI)
The inspection report charts the changes that have occurred since CJI previously assessed the contribution of the sector in 2013.
“The work undertaken by voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations is significant, with staff using their experiences to get closer to victims, witnesses and offenders and engage with the community in a more innovative, creative and less bureaucratic way,” said Brendan McGuigan, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
 “However, the lack of a functioning Northern Ireland Assembly and political representatives to advocate on the behalf of these types of organisations is having a negative and ongoing impact on the sector,” he said.
Reflecting on the findings of the inspection Mr McGuigan said that in the face of falling levels of government funding, voluntary and community sector bodies had shown resilience and innovation by securing funding from outside the justice system to meet an increasing demand for services to support the criminal justice agencies.
“While voluntary and community organisations are fully aware of the pressures that are currently on the public purse, the continuation of short term funding arrangements has created uncertainty and instability within this sector,” he said.
“It limits the ability of the organisations to retain staff and effectively plan for the future by developing and implementing projects to deliver longer term outcomes and objectives,” said Mr McGuigan.
The Chief Inspector indicated this was at odds with the concept of outcome based accountability advocated in the draft Programme for Government which focuses on delivering long term improvements within society.
“I welcome the work underway within the Department of Justice and other government departments to develop a more sustainable, effective funding relationship with voluntary and community organisations.
“I also recommend steps should also be taken to ensure the focus on outcomes around service delivery is matched at the procurement and commissioning stage, and that these exercises are carried out in a way that means smaller organisations with fewer resources, are not disadvantaged,” concluded Mr McGuigan.