Commissioning & Competition

The PCA understands and supports the Government’s aim to procure the best provision of services for offenders in the community, to achieve the desired outcomes of reducing re-offending, protecting the public from harm, and providing value for taxpayers’ money. The competition of specific interventions (e.g. community payback, drug & alcohol treatment, curfew monitoring etc) has the potential to drive innovation and achieve efficiencies, provided it is based on proper assessments of improving service quality and effectiveness, and taken in the context of coherent and inclusive commissioning.

The PCA has advocated for the greater devolution of commissioning functions from Central Government to regional Probation Trusts. With their unique position, straddling national, regional and local geographies and structures, Probation Trusts are already strategically placed to integrate the commissioning of services and resources to the priorities of their local communities and with key partners across the criminal justice system. Probation Trust’s role and expertise in the oversight and management of all offenders in the community, naturally complements and can improve the commissioning of services and resources to specific offender needs and public outcomes. Indeed, Probation Trusts are already involved in a host of co-commissioning arrangements which have demonstrated their competence and effectiveness, and the PCA advocates these should be further built upon.

Whilst the PCA accepts that specific interventions could be subject to a competitive exercise, we firmly believe that the overarching offender management of offenders on court orders and licenses in the community should remain a direct function of public sector Probation Trusts. Offender management represents an integral whole, and to competitively divide it would lead to the fragmentation of services and sentence delivery. The effect would be to undermine public accountability, create risks for public protection, and uproot the local level, multi-agency partnerships that have evolved around Probation Trusts with their offender management and community expertise.

In its ‘Transforming Rehabilitation’ consultation (January 2013), the Government outlined its plans to nationally compete contracts for the management of ‘low’ and ‘medium’ risk offenders in the community, with a payment by results component built into the new contracts. Probation would be restructured and consolidated, and have responsibility for the management of ‘high risk’ offenders only (approximately 20% of the current case load). The PCA have raised significant concerns in its response for many of the reasons raised above. Read the joint PCA & PA response here…

The PCA’s Commissioning, Competition and Performance Business Area Group is lead by John Wiseman, CE of Dorset Probation Trust. The group’s core aims are:

  • To increase the capability across the Probation Trust community vis a vis commissioning skills and knowledge so as to enhance the effectiveness of Probation Trusts in an increasingly competitive environment.
  • To share good practice and/or experiences regarding commissioning across the Probation Trust community
  • To co-ordinate responses on behalf of the PCA to national initiatives or developments e.g. Payment by Results (PbR), NOMS Commissioning and Competitions Strategy, the introduction of Police Crime Commissioners et al and to seek to influence and shape strategic thinking by Trusts in relation to such initiatives or developments.

The business area group is split into specialist policy portfolios. Please consult their individual pages:
-Payment by Results
-PreView and Specification, Benchmarking & Costing (SBC)
-Performance Measurement

For queries and contributions to the PCA’s Commissioning,Competition & Performance group, please contact the leads.

Previous documents and news

Read ‘The case for Probation Trusts as Commisioners‘

Read  the NOMS Commissioning Intentions 2012-13 Discussion Document

Read the PCA’s 2011 views on probation maintaining Offender Management