The transformation of services intended to rehabilitate offenders took another step towards its implementation today, with the start of the competition announced here.
While it’s easy to nod off, as this apparently endless process won’t grind its way to completion for another 18 months or so, you might regret that in a few years’ time! The number of lives that will be influenced by these proposals is staggering – about 240,000 people currently under probation supervision will be the responsibility of new organisations; another 45,000 newly released prisoners will be drawn into closer supervision arrangements by changes to release conditions, and (less spoken about) 45,000 prisoners will sooner or later end up in resettlement prisons where much of what they do will be controlled by the new providers of probation services.
This adds up to a staggering 330,000 people whose quality and access to rehabilitation services will be in the hands of new (and mainly) private sector companies. As I said in my Guardian article today, this could be a tremendous opportunity - but if we get it wrong we will all live with the consequences for years!
Thursday’s announcement includes the invitation for primes - or in the new language, Tier 1 providers - to submit Pre-Qualification Questionnaires by 31st October 2013. The purpose of this is for the MoJ to filter out organisations that they feel are unsuitable to become Tier 1 providers. For the majority of Clinks Members, this is good to know, but not really relevant, and shouldn’t affect you. There is also a Principles of Competition document and, slightly later in the day, a Target Operating Model which goes some way to explaining how the new arrangements will take shape locally.
The Clinks Policy Team will work through the documents in more detail, but meanwhile here’s a first look at what’s in today’s publication - and what isn’t.
There is a very clear statement that the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Sector will need to turn to the (mainly private sector) Tier 1 providers to secure the resources to continue their work. Contracts and, optimistically, grants are referred to as the mechanisms by which this funding will be delivered.
But the way in which Tier 1 organisations pay Tier 2 and 3 organisations (who will largely be VCSE Sector organisations) remains unclear. The positive is that the seemingly long lost word “grant” appears in the proposals - though we need to see it translated into real action. But, outside of what will certainly be very small grants, the payment mechanism remains a Payment by Results model.
Many would argue that this is only right as it gives the Sector the chance to share any potential rewards of reducing offending - but the fly in the ointment will be what that success looks like, and how it will be measured, especially given the small cohorts Tier 2 and 3 providers are working with. Current proposals simply don’t address this issue.
Also, positively, the Principles of Competition sets out market stewardship principles and a commitment that the way in which contracts are managed will be designed to underpin and enforce these principles. They include an expectation that all organisations in the supply chains will follow the Compact principles in their engagement with the VCSE Sector. Again this is very welcome, but it also needs to be delivered in practice.
Rather surprisingly, the MoJ also announced a new ‘registration process’, which we interpret as an Expression of Interest, for these Tier 2 and Tier 3 organisations. This process (via an online portal) will allow Tier 2 and Tier 3 providers to ‘pitch’ themselves to the prime providers. We know there’ll be some confusion about why this is necessary, in addition to the PIN and Clinks’ own Partnership Finder. But if you are planning on subcontracting, either as Tier 2 or Tier 3, we still recommend you complete this process as it will ensure some protection in any supply chain involvement you have.
We’ll keep you informed throughout the process, starting with an initial briefing on the new documents early next week. Until then, you can stay up to date with Clinks' analysis and information about Transforming Rehabilitation via our Twitter hashtag dedicated to Tier 2 and 3 providers #t2t3 (follow us at www.twitter.com/clinks_tweets) - and submit your questions and comments below.