Belfast Telegraph

Friday 1 August 2014

Survival battle for justice bodies

Some voluntary and community groups working within the criminal justice system are struggling for survival due to uncertainty over funding, inspectors have found.

A number of organisations only receive confirmation of continuing statutory support six months prior to the start of each financial year, the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) said.

A team from the CJI has examined the contribution the voluntary and community sector (VCS) makes to the justice system in the region.

The main VCS bodies involved in criminal justice receive a total of around £8 million a year from the Department of Justice and its agencies.

The sector supplements its income with an additional £12 million from other statutory and charitable sources.

Groups offer and deliver a range of services for victims, witnesses and offenders.

Chief inspector with the CJI Brendan McGuigan said the report identified many positive aspects. He said VCS groups were helping to reduce offending and had assisted in efforts to improve access to justice.

But the chief inspector said funding was still a cause for concern.

He noted that Justice Minister David Ford had not subjected funding to VCS groups to the same scale of cuts as those imposed on statutory criminal justice agencies (1.5% compared to 5%). But he warned that allocation to certain bodies remained "short term and piecemeal".

Mr Ford welcomed the publication of the report, and said: "I am committed to working in partnership with the Voluntary and Community Sector to address bureaucracy to deliver better value for the benefit of all."

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