Yesterday, I dialled into the MoJ Probation Programme Market Engagement Scope of Services webinar to try to get some more clues to the re-design of probation currently going on.
The civil servants involved were as thoroughly professional and helpful as usual while making it clear that a number of key issues are still being worked out.
Below, I share some of the issues discussed.
Officials shared some of the current problems with Unpaid Work which they are hoping to address in the new contracts with the 11 new “Innovation Partners” (the successors to the current 21 Community Rehabilitation Companies) who will be delivering both Unpaid Work and Accredited Programmes in each of the 11 NPS regions. The main problems are:
- Not enough good quality placements, with too many on the day cancellations.
- Under use of the 20% of Unpaid Work hours which may be used to address service users’ employment, training and education (TT) needs.
- A lack of intensive placements for service user unemployed.
- A lack of appropriate placements for female service users.
- Too many orders not completed within the 12 month period.
- Excessive travel time.
Civil servants presented figures showing that the total volume of accredited programmes commenced under community orders (and suspended sentence orders) has fallen since 2006. This has led to a situation where the low volume of referrals can make it hard to secure viable numbers deliver individual programs; leading to longer waiting lists which reduces confidence in the availability of programmes, which then further reduces referrals.
The MoJ wish to address this situation by ensuring that in the future Accredited Programmes are the intervention of choice for all service users on community orders where eligibility criteria are met. This is expected to increase the volume of Accredited Programmes and therefore, presumably, the value of the new contracts.
Resettlement services will be commissioned via the “Dynamic Framework” in a separate competition from the 11 big contracts to deliver Unpaid Work and Accredited Programmes in each probation region. There is no decision yet on how the £280 million annual budget will be split between these two competitions.
Although the Dynamic Framework is supposed to make it easier for smaller voluntary sector providers to win work to be delivered on a local (or regional) basis, it is clear that the big providers who are bidding to be “Innovative Partners” delivering the regional Unpaid Work and Accredited Programme contracts will also be able to bid.
Some features of the plans for resettlement became a bit clearer. Prison officers will have the lead through the Offender Management in Custody (OMic) system for ensuring that serving prisoners participate in the appropriate prison programmes. Handover from prison staff to NPS responsible officers (based, as far as I can tell in a service user’s home probation area, rather than in prison) will take place between 10 and 3 months pre-release. The NPS responsible officer will be the person deciding what resettlement services an individual service user requires during this pre-release period and on release and will match them with appropriate services delivered by providers who have been successful in winning contracts through the Dynamic Framework (these contracts, by the way, are currently anticipated to vary in length from between 1-4 years).
Regional outcomes and Innovation Fund
We were also given outline details of the new regional Outcome and “Innovation” Fund which will reserve £20 million from the 280 million budget to be spent on innovative, cross-cutting approaches, with the intention of engaging a wide range of voluntary sector providers. The aim of the fund is to:
- Build capacity and drive innovation in approaches to tackling wider system outcomes
- Encourage joint investment and co-commissioning
- Leverage additional funding locally and nationally by joining up service provision for offenders, particularly those with multiple and complex needs.
An example was given of “Full Circle”, a multi-agency delivery model in Essex which offers complex needs offenders a fully integrated care navigation service.