In June Clinks met with representatives from His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for the in-person quarterly commissioning engagement forum; a space created to provide regular discussion and feedback on commissioning rounds that will involve the voluntary sector working in criminal justice. See our earlier blog for more details on the purpose of these forums and how you can feed into them in the future.
So, what was discussed?
Current education provision – the Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS)
The DPS is a critical part of prison education delivery; it continues to drive positive outcomes in supporting people in prison on their education journey and plays a significant role for future prison education support. Following the last engagement forum, we were pleased to update the sector that during the 2022-23 financial year 353 ITTs (Invitation to Tender) were published on the DPS. We outlined in our previous blog that the future DPS pipeline was being finalised and was expected to be published on the government’s website in April 2023. We are aware this was updated on 20 April 2023, however at the time of the engagement forum there were only seven opportunities that were estimated to come to market for the financial year 2023-24. Clinks raised in the forum that opportunities for the sector appeared to have decreased and were informed that there was an aim to share an updated DPS pipeline in August 2023.
HMPPS are committed to ensuring that investment continues to flow through the DPS and that projects which drive the biggest impact for those who most need the support are able to be delivered. Over the last few weeks HMPPS have undertaken a review of the future DPS pipeline, which has led to reduced levels of activity and projects being published. The initial review has now concluded, and activity has resumed. You can find the DPS pipeline here.
Future Prison Education Service (PES)
HMPPS are continuing to deliver on commitments in the prison strategy white paper focused on raising the levels of numeracy, literacy, skills, and qualifications of people in prison with the aim of securing jobs or apprenticeships after they leave custody. This includes rolling out Heads of Education Skills and Work across the prison estate and increasing access to education through improvements to digital provision.
We are pleased to hear that significant progress has been made in developing key elements for the upcoming procurement such as defining the requirements, the payment mechanism and key performance indicators. HMPPS are grateful to the sector for their continued engagement with the new procurement processes and are pleased to see a wide range of prospective suppliers interested in delivering high quality education to people in prison.
The launch dates for the procurement’s are anticipated to be in September 2023 for Core Education and October 2023 for Careers, Information, Advice and Guidance (CIAG), and further information will be shared, when possible, ahead of these dates. The anticipated contract start date remains 1 April 2025.
Probation services – Dynamic Framework (DF)
As highlighted in our previous blog, Clinks has been working closely with the MoJ and HMPPS to help simplify the DF, you can find further details of this work here. Some of the changes that have been identified as part of this will be made in August 2023 and will require some downtime and the Jaggaer portal being offline. During this time, organisations will not be able to make changes to their accounts. Communication around this downtime will be conveyed via the Jaggaer portal and through Clinks.
It is also promising to hear that there is potential for several low value competitions to be published on the DF in the coming months. We do not have access to the pipelines or timescales for these competitions yet but are expecting further details soon and we will update the sector once we have received them.
Probation services – Core Services (Education, Training and Employment – ETE, Accommodation, Personal Wellbeing, Finance Benefits and Debt – FBD, Dependency and Recovery – D&R)
Market engagement is underway to understand the initial thoughts on the first phase of the re-commissioning of probation core services and HMPPS have assured us that there will be numerous opportunities throughout the process for prospective providers to input their views and share their feedback. At present, the probation regions and the central teams are currently working through the scope and specifications for the new core services contracts. A clearer timeline of activity is expected to be published shortly, with the intention for the first set of tenders being published in Spring 2024.
Probation grants – people from ethnic minority groups
At the March commissioning forum we raised the frustrations from members around the delays and lack of transparent communication regarding the probation grants for people from ethnic minority groups. We are aware that unsuccessful providers have been informed, and that for the successful applicants, the award values are dependent on the Regional Outcomes and Innovation Fund (ROIF) budgets. Clinks staff have been informed that the timeframes across the probation regions may vary and there has been no clear indication of when successful organisations will be informed of the grant value they will receive, and when to expect this. In the feedback provided at the beginning of April from MoJ/HMPPS, Clinks were informed that where able, the award process would commence within the next week or so. It is really disappointing that over two months later, there is still no further progress with this.
Members have informed us that the messaging they have received has been that they “are eligible for funding, but due to continued governance, we are not yet in a position to confirm which organisations may be awarded funding”. There is confusion around what this messaging actually means, and Clinks had been asked by organisations for further clarity around this messaging as it is implied that the funding is no longer available. We had also received feedback that the messaging often feels deliberately vague and ‘wordy’, and members would really value simple communication about what is going on. Ideally this would include clear deadlines for when things will be resolved, but if deadlines cannot be set, provide a date at which point progress will be updated upon being outlined in each message. For some of the small and specialist organisations who have applied for this funding, the potential award may make a substantial addition to their annual income, and the uncertainty causes great difficulty in knowing whether services can be expanded/adapted as they had hoped, and whether further funding needs to be sourced.
We escalated these ongoing concerns at the engagement forum and were informed that individual communication was underway with those who have applied for the grants, and that providers will be updated with more details in the coming weeks. Clinks have continued to raise this issue with HMPPS on a regular basis, requesting further updates regarding expected timescales and will communicate this with the sector when further information is provided.
Creating Future Opportunities (CFO) Procurement
We received feedback from members who were confused and concerned about the CFO Evolution procurement timelines and how they match up with extensions to current contracts. We were informed in the engagement forum that the original launch was expected to be 2 May 2023, however this had been delayed due to internal governance. This has now been launched as of 24 July 2023.
The next commissioning forum is due to take place in September 2023. 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.
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.@hibiscuscharity have launched a report - funded by Clinks - which explores the complex issues faced by Black, minoritised and migrant women in contact with the CJS and the resulting impacts on their mental health.
Read the report here: https://hibiscusinitiatives.org.uk/media/2023/06/rmc-mental-health-report-document.pdf