Monday 1 March 2010

Promoting the sector

I had a well deserved morning off! The sun shining on the just emerged crocusi in the garden in Brixton, and my good friend and Brixton neighbour, Matthew Thomson (CEO of London Community Recycling Network), popped by with some pain au chocolat.

But it was a but brief respite as I had to do a conference call to settle our recommendations on the appointment of the Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses. Then off to HMT to see Ian Pearson MP, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury.

A useful discussion on the role investment can play in our sector. I stressed how much demand there was for loans from the Social Investment Business and the intermediary role we can play between the banking sector and third sector organisations. There are some potentially big deals in the offing that we are working on that will bring in capital. And we are looking at European support - an area that particularly interests Ian.

From there it was off to the Commons to see Alan Duncan MP, the Tory Prisons Minister. Alan may have had some unfortunate publicity but I have known him since Oxford so rather like him. I spoke warmly about the growing role of our sector in developing services for rehabilitation, but also our vital work in prisons and the exciting new contracts with the commercial sector to help run prisons in a more progressive way.

As I reminded him, our sector has been involved in running prisons ever since we have had prisons. Before they were nationalised by Benjamin Disraeli in 1878, our County and town prisons were run by the local magistracy and voluntary groups. For example, in the 18th century, the Quakers were strongly involved in supporting and helping prisoners. And I reminded him that we invented and ran probation for decades.

And it is a false notion that our sector has never been involved in punishment. For example Borstals, which were run by local Borstal associations, used to set the release date for the young people in their institutions. We also used to run most of the remand homes and approved schools.

Of course we have moved on in how we tackle crime and so our role has evolved and changed. Often for the better - in the context of some remand homes that's for sure. And our role has focused more strongly on rehabilitation. But that work has to start in prison. So our increasing role inside and outside prisons, reclaiming our historic role in the justice system, will continue and expand.

A quick meeting with my colleagues on the Adventure Capital Fund, Steve Wyler (of the DTA ) and Mike Baker (of Social Enterprise Loan Fund) at the Cinnamon Club. Then home.

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