Voluntary sector organisations are a key partner for the Probation Service. We are committed to increasing their role in rehabilitating offenders as part of the new unified model for probation. In doing so, we have sought to learn lessons from the approach taken under the previous Transforming Rehabilitation model for probation (which ceased on 25 June). The procurement process for the new Dynamic Framework for commissioning rehabilitative services has been designed to make it easier for charities and other third-sector organisations to access funding from Government.
An initial £195 million has been awarded to 26 organisations across England and Wales over the next three to four years, to provide vital support services that help reduce reoffending, such as employment and housing advice; and this includes over £45m awarded to organisations providing services tailored to female offenders to address their specific needs and the underlying causes of their crimes as part of the Government’s pledge to see fewer women go to prison.
Around two-thirds of the funding for the 110 contracts awarded so far has been awarded to registered charities or voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations. These are fixed price contracts with a volume cap (with volume bands applying only in larger contracts) to mitigate financial risk to suppliers as a result of volume movement. In addition, many lead organisations are using the specialist skills of smaller organisations to help deliver services, with another 50 organisations, mostly in the voluntary sector, named in their supply chains.
In addition, we commissioned Richard Oldfield to carry out an independent review of the Dynamic Framework. His report recognised the enormous effort that has gone into establishing the Dynamic Framework to enable the unified service to deliver Commissioned Rehabilitative Services and the success of awarding all 110 contracts for day one of our new unified Probation Service with around two-thirds of contracts going to charities and VCSEs. The report made various recommendations to further simplify the process for potential providers and to facilitate the participation of smaller charities in particular, including wider use of grants.
We accept this recommendation and want to promote greater use of grants. We have committed to provide the Probation Service’s regional commissioning teams with clear guidance to help make grants the presumptive choice for funding commissioning intentions that meet specified criteria. We are currently developing the criteria but anticipate it will be a combination of award value, as recommended in the report, and type of requirement / service.
We will continuously review our processes to identify ways to improve future commissioning and procurement.