We were informed last night that the organisation that I've been doing voluntary work for, Ormiston who operate the Prisoners Families Helpline in conjunction with Action for Prisoners Families, have not succeeded in retaining the contract, which was up for tender. We believe that it has gone to our former colleagues Partners of Prisoners (or POPS) in Manchester, although there is nothing (yet) on their website.
So, what happened? Well, I better explain. As it stands at the moment, the National Prisoners Families Helpline was launched in 2003, using funding from the Big Lottery Fund. There were initially five partners around the country, although this was down to two – Ormiston near Cambridge, and POPS in Manchester, when I started in Aug 2007. Shortly after, the lottery funding ran out, and if I remember rightly, both partners dug out some money to keep the service going. From April 2009, the tender was offered to both partners to provide sole ownership of the service for one year, with funding from the National Offender Management Service, now part of the Ministry for Justice. A wider tender was offered from April 2010, open to all comers, and I think was offered on the basis of an enhanced service level provision, although we don't know if that will be proceeded with, or if they just wanted to get the cost of it. One way or another, the service will continue, but will be back in the hands of the Manchester-based group from April 2010.
My thoughts? Naturally disappointed, but I want to remember the good times that I've had working there, since August 2007. They have genuinely been a wonderful bunch to work with, and I've got close with most of them over the last little while. I will continue to provide the assistance that I can, until the last.