Charities reject Labour proposal to involve them in running prisons

Children’s charities have rejected Labour plans to involve the
voluntary sector in the running of young offender institutions.

It was revealed this week that the party is keen for the
voluntary sector to bid jointly with private companies to run YOIs,
detention centres and prisons as part of its public sector reform
programme, in a bid to bring a more humane approach and reduce

But the Children’s Society, NCH and Barnardo’s have ruled out
any involvement in the operation of the prison system in its
current form, arguing it would go against their commitment to
children’s welfare.

Children’s Society policy director Kathy Evans said children’s
charities had been approached by the government about the issue in
1999 and had rejected it then too.

She said that although the charity would “never say never”, it
could not be involved in the work while there were “systematic”
problems with the way custody was used.

“Unless children’s welfare is the primary focus of
decision-making and of the care they receive it is dubious as to
whether we could, just by our philosophy, bring the humane approach
they are seeking out,” Evans said. “The humane approach should be
built in all the way through.”

NCH policy director Caroline Abrahams said it would be difficult
to square promoting children’s welfare with denying them liberty.
“Some things are best done by the state and that is one of them,”
she said.

But the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary
Organisations said it wanted a much more radical debate about the
potential role of the voluntary sector in running public

Head of policy Nick Aldridge said it was possible for voluntary
organisations that felt running prisons did not fall within their
charitable purpose to set up a free-standing joint venture in
partnership with other agencies to carry out the work.

Individual prisons could also be given more independence in the
future, giving voluntary organisations more opportunities to change
their culture, he added.

Meanwhile, research company Kable predicted this week that the
amount of public sector work outsourced to the private and
voluntary sectors would increase by 50 per cent between 2004 and
2007 and be worth £67bn by 2007.


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