Helping offenders into employment: How far is voluntary sector expertise valued in a contracting-out environment?

2010-03-17T15:29:07Z (GMT) by Julie Vennard Carol Hedderman
The Probation Service has, for some years, worked with external service providers in partnership. One strand of this work has involved collaboration with voluntary sector organizations in helping offenders into education training and employment (ETE). Underlying this work is a slim but important evidence base, which shows that offending diminishes when offenders gain employment, and that being in work may trigger longer term desistance. Drawing on an evaluation of a government-sponsored `Employment Pathfinder' and on other relevant research, the article argues that recent governmental pressure to contract out services, and to adhere to certain `what works in reducing re-offending' principles, has given rise to tension within this collaboration attributable to conflicting ideology and practice. Specifically, this has created a context in which there is limited scope to adopt practices which are informed by knowledge about `what works' in getting people into employment. A less prescriptive approach from the centre about what should be delivered, and how, would restore effective teamwork and might also open up probation practice to empirical and theoretical insights into the desistance process. Wider implications of these findings for the future involvement of organizations with expertise in the provision of services for offenders are discussed.

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