In late 2021, a forum was set up between the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and Clinks to create a space for regular and ongoing engagement on commissioning rounds that will involve the voluntary sector working in criminal justice.
Representatives from the MoJ, HMPPS and Clinks meet on a quarterly basis so that the MoJ/HMPPS can share details of upcoming commissioning and procurement opportunities that Clinks need to be aware of in order to provide support to the voluntary sector, and for Clinks to provide feedback from the voluntary sector on what is working well and what could be improved with regards to previous or ongoing opportunities. It was agreed that the initial focus would be on the Probation Dynamic Framework and the Prisoner Education Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS), but that the agenda would remain flexible for Clinks to be able to bring key issues to the agenda for discussion.
How does the voluntary sector feed into this forum?
In preparation for the forum meetings, Clinks staff have been collating intelligence and information from the sector in order to contribute to the agenda ahead of the quarterly meetings. We have a number of ways in which we have been doing this, including:
One to one engagement with organisations in the sector, including contact with our area development team and emails into our functional mailboxes
Discussions at our England, Wales and regional forums
Engagement and discussions through our specialist thematic networks and their associated quarterly forum meetings – the women’s network, the race and justice network and the National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance
Other anecdotal feedback that we receive through other channels and the use of ad-hoc surveys when required
Once we have collated all the feedback, we have been producing a summary paper which highlights the key themes presented by the voluntary sector and use this resource as our contribution to the meeting agenda.
What issues have been raised so far?
To date, there have been four commissioning engagement forum meetings where a variety of issues have been raised. Feedback has been shared around the delay in funding opportunities coming through the Regional Outcomes and Innovation Fund (ROIF), the short term contract offer for prison-based services through the DPS, issues around the advertisement and notification of contract awards to voluntary organisations, the competition process for family services and generic feedback around the time-scales of commissioning opportunities and how they are becoming increasingly short.
How does the voluntary sector find out about the MoJ/HMPPS response?
Following the most recent commissioning engagement forum in August, it has been agreed that Clinks will look to publish information following each forum to provide details on the issues that were raised on behalf of the sector and the updates provided and actions taken by the MoJ/HMPPS.
Current education provision – the Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) and Prison Education Framework (PEF):
The MoJ will be sharing a DPS pipeline of future requirements for the remainder of the financial year 22/23. This will look to provide clarity on potential requirements and to help stimulate the supply of innovative projects;
The MoJ’s education group are currently expanding and restructuring to ensure consistent coverage across all regions and will be able to provide a conduit between suppliers and prison establishments;
The Prisons Strategy White Paper highlights the importance of employment and literacy and prison establishments will be encouraged to look at innovative projects sourced through the DPS to meet this increased emphasis;
Ofsted continues to drive a strategic focus on Maths and English delivery with a new focus on reading education, which could provide opportunities for the voluntary sector.
The new prison education service:
The MoJ’s market engagement phase is drawing to a close. There has been a range of activity over the last few months. This included an online launch event, a series of webinars (including a Clinks hosted session), various questionnaires, and one to one conversations with over 100 suppliers and interested parties;
The launch event and webinar recordings remain available via the MoJ’s Jaggaer portal;
Feedback from the market engagement is now being analysed and evaluated by MoJ. Findings will be used to help inform service design over the coming months;
Current plans are for MoJ to share procurement plans via a market warming phase towards the end of this year with a procurement expected next spring.
Probation Dynamic Framework (DF):
- Work continues to simplify commissioning through the DF. Subject to some finalisation within the MoJ, consultation with the market is expected to commence in the next couple of months.
- The new grants portal is now live (for more information see this Clinks blog);
Market engagement events for the first probation grants competition have taken place and the first round of grant competition was launched on 21st September and is for organisations delivering services to support racially minoritised people on probation;
The next commissioning forum is due to take place in October. We are keen to make sure that the issues, themes and feedback that we provide is as comprehensive as possible so please continue to share your experiences of commissioning and procurement opportunities with us. You can continue to do that through our England, Wales and regional forums, as well as through our thematic network forums. Otherwise, if you have any feedback or concerns that you would like to raise, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.