Changes to the ministerial team
Following Rishi Sunak’s appointment as Prime Minister, a reshuffle of government ministers has taken place. This has seen Dominic Raab return to the Ministry of Justice as the Deputy Prime Minister, Lord Chancellor, and Secretary of State for Justice following the resignation of Brandon Lewis. In addition, Edward Argar and Damian Hinds have been appointed as Ministers of State in the Ministry of Justice, replacing Rachel Maclean and Rob Butler respectively. Damian Hinds MP will hold responsibility for prisons, parole, probation, and youth justice. Mike Freer and Lord Bellamy have stayed in the department.
In the Home Office, Suella Braverman is the Home Secretary, after a brief period on the backbenches. Robert Jenrick has joined the Home Office as the Minister for Immigration, along with Chris Philp who also became a Minister of State. Sarah Dines and Lord Murray of Blidworth have also joined the Home Office as Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State. At the Attorney General’s Office, Victoria Prentis took the post of Attorney General, with Michael Tomlinson remaining the Solicitor General.
Clinks has written to the new Prisons Minister Damian Hinds to congratulate him on his role and emphasise the importance of the voluntary sector as a key partner in the delivery of justice and rehabilitation. We highlighted key areas such as women in the criminal justice system, race and justice, health, youth justice, and multiple disadvantage. We offered Clinks’ continued support on all these important issues and made clear our role in supporting the minister to engage with the sector. We invited him to meet with Clinks Leadership Team as well as the Third Sector Reducing Reoffending Advisory Group (RR3).
How to engage with new ministers
You might decide to write to new ministers to introduce your organisation and begin building a relationship. Strong relationships with decision makers can be invaluable in order to build a network for influencing, advance your policy aims, or gain high level support for your organisation’s work. Here are some tips to bear in mind in deciding whether to get in touch.
Decide whether it’s the best use of your time Writing a letter uses time and resources that might take away from your other work. If you don’t have a clear ask and something to offer that fits with minister’s current priorities and policy objectives, it might be better to hold off until contacting a minister becomes a priority.
Find the right person to write to. Ministerial responsibilities have shifted under the new leadership, so you will need to find out which minister(s) are now responsible for your area of work, whether it’s violence against women and girls, drugs, the courts, or human rights. To find out, take a look at the Ministry of Justice webpage.
Be concise. Get to the point, be as succinct as you can, and be clear about what you want from the recipient. One to two pages is usually the right length for an introductory letter.
Provide context. Tell the minister what problem your organisation exists to fix, and what impact you have on the people who use your service. If you have any data to back it up, include it. Show how important your voluntary organisation is to the community. Let the minister know about any research, reports or campaigns you have recently released.
Consider what you have to offer. You might not agree with all current criminal justice policy but try to show how your organisation’s objectives align with, or can help government to achieve, their broad goals. For example, reducing reoffending, addressing the growing prison population, securing accommodation and employment outcomes or tackling substance misuse. Show how the knowledge and expertise you have from the delivery of your services could help shape policy and practice and improve outcomes. You can use this tool to find what issues ministers have spoken or written about in Parliament or search for articles they have written using a search engine.
Include an ask. Be clear about what they can do to support you. You might want to invite them to visit your service, to follow up on work that predates their ministerial term, or for them to answer a specific question.
Influencing decision makers
For more guidance on how to influence decision makers, you can explore our Stronger Voice programme. Stronger Voice is a three-year project that Clinks is running to empower the voluntary sector working in criminal justice to develop a unified and influential voice, at both a national and regional level. You can benefit from the programme through training, expert seminors, or tailored one-to-one communications coaching.
During October and November 2022, we are running a free programme of training sessions to empower organisations to mobilise their campaigns and finesse their influencing skills. Find out more about the programme in our blog post.
Clinks is also working with charity communications and policy expert Gemma Buckland to provide a new round of free coaching for a small number of voluntary organisations working in the criminal justice system. Clinks members can receive one-to-one coaching and the opportunity for peer learning with other organisations to support you to develop language and tools that can help you more effectively communicate your work and speak out on issues that matter. Click here for more information and to apply.
If you have any questions about how to strengthen your relationship with ministers or influence decision makers, you can get in touch with Clinks. We would be happy to support you to bring about the change you want to see in the criminal justice system.