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Report on the National Probation Service London roundtables

National Probation Service London is committed to developing a productive and supportive relationship with a network of London based Black and Asian-led voluntary and community sector organisations as a part of their wider commissioning and EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) plans.

As part of Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG)’s ongoing work to support the NPS’s plans to improve their relationship with BAME-led voluntary organisations, BTEG hosted two roundtable events on the 7th and 8th of April 2021.

The purpose of these two sessions was threefold: to give NPS the opportunity to share their plan for transformation as they move back to the public sector; to give sector leaders an opportunity to share the great work they do in the community; and to have a co-creative conversation to support the next steps for NPS’s long-term sector engagement strategy.

29 people attended over the two days, including BAME-led organisations Youth Learning Network, 21k Digital Media Ltd, JAGS Foundation, Money A+E, and Empowerment Training by Code Red Limited.

Both roundtables featured key speakers from the National Probation Service and the voluntary sector.

Kilvinder Vigurs, Director at NPS London, with 27 years’ experience in the criminal justice system, set out the NPS’s goal of being an organisation that is open to conversation and learning. She believes now is the time to reach out to communities, listen to people, and encourage diversity of thought within the NPS. Kilvinder highlighted the importance of cultural competency when working with service users and shared the NPS London’s success in reducing the number of young black men going to prison by 11% by instead offering them community services.

Karen Tipping, Head of Community Integration at the National Probation Service London, set out their plans for renationalisation following the privatisation in 2014. Part of this plan is to build sustainable relationships with smaller community organisations in order to develop the range of specialist support services available to people on probation. The Dynamic Framework (DF) is the NPS’ procurement framework which enables them to commission rehabilitative services in areas such as accommodation, employment, and personal wellbeing. NPS are wholly guided by the data on caseloads and are keen to commission services that fill a gap in provision.

The first speaker from the voluntary sector was Danyele Lawes, Senior Project Coordinator at Spark2Life: an ethnically diverse community-inspired initiative that empowers and advocates for offenders and those at risk of offending. Danyele outlined the work they do with young people involved in or on the periphery of involvement with gangs who are referred to them by the National Probation Service (NPS) and Community Rehabilitation Company (CRC). Spark2life are big advocates of having a growth mindset and believe in heart transformation over behaviour modification.

The second roundtable speaker from the community was Sammy Odoi, Managing Director at Wipers Youth CIC, a grassroots organisation that works with people in the criminal justice system. Having previously worked in the youth offending services and having come to the realisation that young people were not getting the care they needed, Sammy decided to establish Wipers Youth. Now a group of 10, their mission is to empower young people to reach their full potential by helping them to recognise their strengths and talents, and fostering frank, open, and safe discussions with young people.

Overwhelmingly, attendees found the roundtables useful and worthwhile, with 50% of the attendees surveyed rating the event and speakers as 9 out of 10, and 30% rating them a 10 out of 10. 

Furthermore, over 83% of attendees surveyed said they would be more likely to engage in commissioning work for the NPS after attending the roundtable. 

Feedback from attendees:

“Some procurements should be ringfenced for grassroots organisations only. Or BTEG can become the lead body for small organisation who don’t have the capacity to bid for NPS contracts”.

“A good start to community engagement – a long way to go.”

“Great discussions and more inclusion from BAME communities on decision making.”

“Small organisations accessing tendering contracts is notoriously challenging, if not impossible. Unless small organisations can form consortia with external expert advice and capacity building; or if that same external support can supervise and enable sub-contracting, then I see very little changing in this environment. To engage with commissioning, small organisations have to weigh up their resource and time versus the likelihood of successful commissioning for tender contracts.”

“The opportunity presented to hear from the NPS and learn from the experiences of other organisations was valuable and should continue.” 

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