Last month Clinks met with representatives from His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) and the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for the quarterly commissioning engagement forum; a space that was 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) and Prison Education Framework (PEF)
The MoJ has published the latest DPS pipeline of future requirements for the remainder of the financial year 22/23. This will help to provide clarity on potential requirements and to help stimulate the supply of innovative projects. Clinks asked whether the pipeline had been published before and how it can be most useful to the sector, highlighting the importance of updates and changes being shared clearly and in a timely manner. The MoJ will review the pipeline, initially, on a quarterly basis and will publish further updates where there are material changes to report.
Further updates were provided about the MoJ’s education group currently expanding and restructuring to ensure consistent coverage across all regions, which will provide a conduit between current suppliers and establishments. The contract management team are continuing to work with suppliers to help drive performance on the PEF contacts.
Clinks members have raised concerns with us about their ability to deliver services effectively with the pressures associated with cost of living and the energy crisis having an impact on utility costs. We highlighted that it would be helpful for the sector to understand the commercial contract models for increasing contract values as a result of the cost of living, for example does this process run from the annual contract award date or from the start of the financial year. It is our understanding at Clinks that Community Rehabilitative Service (CRS) contracts and prison family services contracts are index linked, but that Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) contracts, and all types of grants, are not. There are concerns around the consistency of the approach taken and an understanding of how the increase to contract value is decided and what this is measured against would be helpful. Clinks members have provided feedback that they have been made aware that prison family services contracts will be index linked moving forward but have not received any further information on this, for example by what percentage and when will the increase be awarded.
HMPPS are looking at how to approach contracts and new procurements moving forward to ensure that they put the right provisions in place, however it is important to acknowledge that many of the challenges associated with the cost of living and energy crisis are unprecedented and complex.
Future Prison Education Service (PES)
Following a market consultation earlier this year, the main focus of the PES programme is now on the future service design. Their current plans are for market warming to begin with an online event on 30th November which will provide a high-level view of the direction of travel. This will be followed up in January with more detailed documents describing a range of key principles and a timeline.
While the previous market consultation was focused on harvesting ideas, knowledge and expertise about how best to achieve desired outcomes, this round of market warming will be more focused on enabling prospective suppliers to understand the opportunities in greater detail so they can be better informed about the role they could have in delivering a future PES, as well as preparing for the subsequent competition. HMPPS are keen to work with Clinks to help with their engagement with the market and are looking forward to progressing this soon.
Probation services – Dynamic Framework (DF)
The first stage of the DF simplification process is now complete, including a roll out of all the streamlined competition documents. These have been soft tested with the market, and MoJ updated that the most recent feedback from bidders is that the streamlined documentation has made it more accessible, less onerous and most perhaps importantly, seems to be proportionate to the size and value of the lower value competitions. We are particularly keen to see whether voluntary organisations agree with this and would welcome your feedback.
The next stage of consultation is underway internally across key stakeholders in MoJ/HMPPS to review:
- The Selection Questionnaire (SQ) case studies, including whether these are still appropriate or if there is an alternative.
- The financial thresholds for the SQ.
- Dynamic Framework (DF) videos, to help organisations navigate the framework, which are being developed in partnership with Clinks.
- Streamlining of selection criteria and the use of keywords to reach small and specialist providers.
A previous recommendation that was agreed through research was around making the CRS suppliers lists and subcontractors available and transparent to Clinks and the sector, however, this is yet to happen. Clinks would like to find a routine way of sharing the details of prison DPS and probation DF contracts/grants recipients with Clinks and the sector moving forward. The MoJ/HMPPS agreed that they would look into this and share an update as soon as possible.
Clinks has received feedback that the registration process for probation grants was too stringent, and a more flexible process allowing organisations to register at any point during the period of time prior to the grant application closing date should be considered. For example, one member organisations thought that they had registered on the grants portal when in fact they were only registered on Jagger, meaning that they had missed the registration deadline to apply for a grant, and so were unable to apply for the most recent round of probation grants.
There was significant regional variation between the budgets for the first grant competition, and this raised questions amongst organisations about how each regional probation area was managing the Regional Innovation and Outcomes Fund (ROIF) and so recommendation that information about the overall ROIF budget and the spend to date with this year, per region, and per thematic area, would be helpful for organisations to understand where each regional probation area is at with regards to their ROIF budget.
There were a number of updates about the first grants process, which currently being evaluated:
- All 12 regional grant competitions were successfully launched on 21 September and the deadline for submissions was 2 November – early indications were that there would be a number of submissions across each region.
- MoJ/HMPPS are exploring whether it is possible for organisations to be able to see what they are and are not registered for to reduce any confusion about the multiple application platforms.
- Once probation grant values and spending are confirmed they will be shared externally by MoJ/HMPPS.
Clinks also asked about other upcoming commissioning opportunities for the sector, and the below outlines the currently live or pending projects, as of 20th October:
- Circles – the competition has ended and is currently being evaluated and moderated.
- Finance Benefit and Debt (FBD) in custody is expected to be launched in the next few weeks.
- FBD and Dependency and Recovery re-runs are underway and the competitions have been launched.
The next commissioning forum is due to take place at the beginning of February 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