The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) procurement team secured new terms for its Bail, Accommodation and Support Services contract to improve the lives and prospects of ex-offenders moving forward.
Every year hundreds of offenders in the UK are given the opportunity to secure short-term accommodation through the Bail, Accommodation and Support Service. Research shows that two-thirds of homeless ex-prisoners reoffend within a year, so this provides those who would otherwise be remanded or remain in prison access to 550 bed spaces in houses or flats across England and Wales. The service plays a vital role in steering people back to normal life.
With the contract for incumbent provider Home Group set to expire in June 2018, time was of the essence for the MoJ to re-procure and re-establish the service with a new provider. It set itself an ambitious 18-month timeframe to appoint and bring a new provider up to speed. But as well as wanting to guarantee value for money and ensure resilience, the aim was to appoint a provider that would devise innovative solutions and bring value to the rehabilitation journey.
To make this happen, the MoJ’s Commercial Contract Management team embarked on a major multi-agency and multi-discipline collaboration, working closely with the Operational Contract Management team from HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS), which then collaborated with relevant parties at the Department for Communities, local governments, and the Department for Work and Pensions. In parallel, attention was given to ensure the successful wind-down of the previous contract, including transferring more than 100 staff.
The process took an innovative approach to issues that had hampered the previous provider – not least how to manage bed spaces unexpectedly becoming unavailable due to building repairs.
The procurement team produced a model based on paying for beds ‘in service’, as well as introducing a new credit service regime that would incentivise any new provider to ensure repairs are addressed within a specific category rating set out by the contract. In essence, risks associated with non-availability of bed spaces were transferred to the supplier, which was incentivised to bring them back into service quickly. A review of performance metrics was undertaken and, because these were untested, a provision to review the performance mechanism was also agreed.
“The key from the start was getting the best deal for tax-payers,” said Maralyn Fawell, senior commercial manager of electronic monitoring, youth justice and accommodation. “It was the collaboration we instigated, among groups not normally working together, that pulled this project together,” she added.
With 21 providers in the offing, procurement teams assessed bidders not just on the transparency of their costs, service and ICT requirements, but also on their strategies for reducing reoffending rates. Because the majority of suppliers were SMEs, it also helped ensure small organisations were not detrimentally impacted by the process. “Everyone had the same chance,” said Fawell. “That was very important to us.”
The contract was awarded to social justice charity and registered housing provider Nacro. The changeover has been a success, and the procurement team was recognised for its work in the CIPS SM Awards 2019, when the project won the award for Collaborative Teamwork – Public Sector.
New supplier, social justice charity Nacro, helps individuals move on and offers support with employment, managing money, health and wellbeing, substance misuse and relationship building if necessary. Availability of beds for the MoJ has now improved, and new (preferred) behaviours are beginning to change. Quality assessments have also risen in number – nine traditional assessments and 203 recorded assessments were undertaken in the first four months of the second contract year. “Their performance and dedication has been great,” said Fawell.
The firm has now pledged to work alongside the MoJ to identify how to continually make changes to housing to meet the department’s needs. But more than this, both parties are fully committed to working on a ‘no surprises’ basis, agreeing to keep each other informed of developments outside the formal governance structure.