Our history

Catch22's history starts in 1788 with the formation of The Philanthropic Society, who aimed to 'unite the spirit of charity with the principles of trade' - our original definition of a 'social business'.

Catch22 has a long and rich history in innovative public service work. Catch22 was formed in 2008 from a merger between the Rainer Foundation and Crime Concern. The Rainer Foundation began as the London Police Court Mission in 1876 and became the Rainer Foundation in 1964. The earliest roots of Catch22, however, go back to 1788 and the formation of the Philanthropic Society, which joined the Rainer Foundation in 1997 to form RPS Rainer. Crime Concern then joined in 2008 to form Catch22.

A philosophy of openness since 1788

At the first meeting of the Philanthropic Society in 1788 – the earliest forerunner to Catch22 – it was decided that in order to help young people the organisation was ‘not to have surrounding walls’. This philosophy of openness is still at the centre of Catch22; we believe that innovation and flexibility are essential to the modern provision of public services – and therefore to unlocking the potential of vulnerable young people and adults.

Beginnings: Royal Philanthropic Society and intellectual, philosophical and political roots

The Philanthropic Society formed in 1788 for the ‘Prevention of Vice and Misery among the Poor’. The Society was created amidst concern over rising crime and ‘moral degradation’ in growing urban areas.

The purpose was to help young people who had been caught up in crime to develop ‘virtuous dispositions, and industrious habits’ and ultimately to ‘find them the means of an honest employment and livelihood’.

The Philanthropic Society saw their ultimate goal as improving society at large. They aimed to ‘unite the spirit of charity with the principles of trade’ by focusing on the social returns gained from improving the ‘morals and ethics’ of young offenders.

By 1854 the examples set by the Philanthropic Society were cemented in law through the Youthful Offenders Act of 1854 and the Reformatory Schools Act of the same year. The Acts allowed young offenders to be sentenced to an independent reformatory school instead of prison, such as the Reformatory Farm School for Boys established by the Society in 1849.

The Philanthropic Society believed in the state’s responsibility to legislate for the vulnerable but also  recognised the voluntary sector’s capacity for the care and advancement of all in society. This view is one which remains at the heart of Catch22 today – we support people in tough situations to turn their lives around by working in partnership with local and central government.

The Philanthropic Society received a royal charter in 1952, becoming the Royal Philanthropic Society.

Transitions and mergers: the London Police Court Mission, Rainer and Crime Concern

The London Police Court Mission

The London Police Court Mission (LPCM) was established in 1876 by Frederic Rainer and the Church of England Temperance Society (CETS). After expressing concerns about the lack of external support for vulnerable people who came before the courts, the CETS began appointing missionaries to Southwark Court – a mission that evolved into the LPCM. They worked with magistrates to develop a system of guidance, education and support in an effort to rehabilitate rather than immediately incarcerate offenders.

By 1907, LPCM’s example of appointing missionaries to care for offenders was written into the law through the Probation of Offenders Act, and the missionaries were known as ‘probation officers’. When the Home Office assumed control of the probation service in 1938, the LPCM concentrated on hostels for ‘probation trainees’ and homes for children in ‘moral danger’, sexually abused children and young mothers.


In 1964 the LPCM became the Rainer Foundation after founder Frederic Rainer and extended its remit to include children not meeting their full potential at school, and moved from residential to more community-based work.

In 1997 the Royal Philanthropic Society (RPS) merged with Rainer to become RPS Rainer, known simply as ‘Rainer’ by 2003.

In 2002 other charities were incorporated, including the DIVERT Trust, which had built its reputation on mentoring services, and the National Leaving Care Advisory Service (NLCAS, later NCAS).

Crime Concern

Crime Concern was established in 1988 by the then Home Secretary Douglas Hurd. The charity aimed to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour by working with offenders and their families, and offering support through education, training and employment. Supported by funding from the Home Office, Crime Concern looked to extend crime prevention beyond the police and into communities.


In 2008 Rainer merged with Crime Concern to become Rainer Crime Concern and then Catch22.

Today Catch22 embodies many of the philosophies and beliefs of the three founding organisations. We believe in helping people in tough situations for the wider benefit of society, as the Royal Philanthropic Society did. We are also still similar to the London Police Court Mission in working to rehabilitate offenders by providing support before and after their release from prison, or with their community sentence. Fundamentally, although our environment and circumstances have changed, our ultimate goals have not: we aim to build resilience and aspiration in people and communities.

Further reading