Response to the MOJ’s Transforming Rehabilitation Consultation

Social Finance has responded to the Ministry of Justice transforming rehabilitation consultation. You can read our full response here but the following is a brief summary.

We welcome MOJ’s commitment to transforming rehabilitation and offender management services to deliver better rehabilitation outcomes.

We believe that the VCS sector has a vital role to play in the delivery of effective rehabilitation programmes at local level. The value that the VCS sector brings is based on local knowledge and expertise, mission–driven staff, ability to motivate a network of volunteers and mentors to deliver a cost-effective programme and contribute to a diverse market.

We believe the value-for-money (vfm) arguments for the commissioner should go beyond achieving reductions in short-term spend to encouraging preventative spend in reducing reoffending that will provide material future benefits and savings to the tax payer. If incentivised and motivated under fair terms, the VCS sector brings mission-driven organisations and volunteers on a cost-effective basis.

We are concerned that the procurement process could favour bidders who will deliver short term savings to the cost of probation services but will not commit significant investment or support innovation in working to reduce the rate of reoffending.

Principal recommendations: We believe that the best overall balance would be achieved with a procurement process that has the following elements:

  • A scoring system for contract awards that recognises quality of delivery and longer term benefits as well as short term financial savings.
  • A requirement that prime contractors(a) specify the operating model and range of services and(b)  allocate a minimum committed annual ring-fenced external spend (£M) on rehabilitation services supplied by third parties linked to outcomes revenues and (c)a scoring system that rewards more spend.
  • A requirement that prime contractors agree the terms of their principal sub-contracts prior to definitive offer stage (BAFO) to protect against onerous VCS contracts being imposed post contract award.

We believe effective engagement is about providing the right balance between mandatory engagement and programmes that encourage participation   Discussions with offenders and ex-offenders at our Peterborough Social Impact Bond pilot disclose a strong sense that a mandatory programme post release for short sentence prisoners could result in less effective engagement.   Volunteers and mentors may be less attracted to mandatory programmes than a voluntary programme where the offender is choosing to engage.

We would urge that the scoring system used to rank and select bidders should include both quality as well as cost/financial assessments. There is a big difference between a streamlined “sign-posting” case management programme   and a more intensive programme that commits to put substantial resources into rehabilitation with low case management ratios and a lot of specialist support.

Whilst predictable fee-for-services functions can be refined and continuously improved to reduce costs, it is not currently the case that compelling evidence exists on how best to reduce reoffending and encourage reintegration. Innovation and substantial resources are needed to make an impact. The quality of programmes offered and their potential to provide future benefit, should be a factor in determination of contract award.

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