Transforming Rehabilitation: what’s next?

Ruth Breidenbach-Roe was part of the the Public Services and Partnerships team but has now left NCVO. Her blog posts have been archived here for reference.

On 19 September the competition for Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) was officially announced. This marks the start of the process to select the new providers of probation services to medium and low risk offenders across England and Wales. Contracts will be awarded and delivery commenced by Spring 2015. This blog post gives a brief overview of the key documents that have been released and considers the implications on VCSE involvement.

The Target Operating Model provides much of the detail around how the reconfigured probation service will work. The 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC) formed from existing probation trusts are tasked with delivering better quality rehabilitation to more offenders, in the most efficient ways, whilst ensuring public protection. It’s a lengthy document (64 pages), and one that will be essential for prospective providers in designing service delivery models which fit with MOJ’s vision. Clinks have produced a very helpful briefing on how the delivery of services will look.

For prime providers (or ‘Tier 1’ as they will now be known in the official language of MOJ) the Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ) must now be tackled; they must make sure they can evidence the capacity which is required, and submit by the end of next month. From this, MOJ will then invite shortlisted providers to participate in the next round (the Invitation to Negotiate (ITN) stage).  The PQQ is not in the public domain and providers will need to register on the online portal to access it.

But what is the next step for potential subcontractors? MOJ have introduced a new registration process for ‘Tier 2’ and Tier 3’ providers. Like the Prior Information Notice (PIN) registration it requires information about current delivery and areas of work, but it also allows providers to flesh out their plans for involvement in the TR programme. It’s intended that the Tier 1 providers will use this to assemble their supply chains.

The guidance note for this registration process offers a glimmer of hope in terms of funding mechanisms which will be used for subcontractors:

“Tier II and Tier III potential providers are those who would form part of the supply chain via sub-contracts for the services under the Rehabilitation Programme contracts (Tier II) or through the award of grant funding arrangements (Tier III) both with Tier I providers.”

This could be the ideal for the voluntary sector:  if you are unable to contract on a PbR basis then your prime will give you a grant to carry out your work instead. I think most of us can guess that this isn’t how it will look. Although the acknowledgement that grant-funding might be a more appropriate model than contracting is positive (and a step forward), in reality these grants are likely to be few and far between. I’m sure we’d all be happily proved wrong on this.

PbR looks set to remain integral for many subcontractors. We have expressed concerns from the start about the viability of this model for the VCSE. Although paying public services for the impact they have is something we support, the financial and operational realities of this is something that has not been fully worked out.

We are yet to see the updated payment model for TR. MOJ published a draft of this in June, and we expressed our concerns that this model does not offer the right incentives for quality input into rehabilitation services, and risks shutting out the voluntary sector from delivery. We are therefore keen to see the MOJ’s response to all the feedback they received on the model as well as seeing the final version.

The Principles of Competition document, aside from setting out the rules of the competition and the fair, transparent and equal treatment of bidders, also outlines MOJ’s market stewardship approach. It gives five core principles which it expects providers to follow throughout their supply chains:

Risk
This states that “contractual and other risk should be appropriately managed.” For those VCSE subcontractors involved in the Work Programme, a huge problem was the stepping down of financial risk from the prime contractors. The lack of guaranteed referrals, and the uncertainties around anticipated volume of work, was unsustainable for many organisations.   This provision seeks to address this.
Ethos
“An understanding of what is important to both parties” should underpin the contracting process, and be reviewed throughout the contract to ensure expectations are being met. This is potentially really important in establishing mutual trust early in the process which can be carried throughout the contracting relationship.
Transparency
“All parties should have visibility of participation within the supply chain” including payment terms, volume of business, and the “fair apportionment of referrals with regard to easier cases.” Again, this has the potential to mitigate some of the problems seen in the Work Programme, and is something that has been consistently raised as a concern by VCSE providers.
Performance
good performance from providers should be rewarded, but also recognised across the supply chain. This will include the sharing of good practice, which could be crucial in driving up the quality of outcomes which are delivered across the programme.
The Compact
Tier 1 (and indeed all supply chain organisations) will be expected to “follow this code when engaging with 3rd sector organisations.”

With all of the above principles, their success in ensuring that Tier 1 providers manage a diverse and sustainable supply chain will be down to how these principles are developed and integrated, not only into the contracts, and sub-contracts, but into the performance and contract management processes from MOJ.

In terms of the actual contract documents, we won’t see these until ITN stage. Importantly, MOJ are designing an Industry Standard Partnering Agreement (ISPA) which is to be used between Tier 1 and the supply chain. Please note though that Tier 1 providers will only have to use the ISPA with those organisations who have registered this time round (not just on the PIN)—if you haven’t  registered then this will not be guaranteed.

Upcoming events

NCVO is working with ACEVO and Candour Collaborations to deliver a series of events to the VCSE sector to raise awareness and understanding of the TR competition. You can book now for the information workshops which are taking place around the country from 7 October and which will provide an overview of the procurement process, the key requirements of the specification, and the potential operational and commercial challenges.

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