National VCSE infrastructure organisation CLINKs published a report a few months ago that makes for interesting reading. It is called ‘More than a provider: the role of the voluntary sector in the commissioning of offender services’ and it was funded by the Ministry of Justice. Although focused on criminal justice, there may be something here that is more generally applicable. According to author Isabel Livingstone, CLINKs Local Development Officer, here are the 10 elements they identified that make for great commissioning:
- Involve the voluntary sector as more than a provider: The voluntary sector is not just a provider of services, it has a key role in informing needs assessments, scrutinising and reviewing existing services and advocating for change.
- Involve service users and ex-offenders in commissioning: There are many ways of involving service users. However it is achieved, it is vital that commissioning teams are grounded in the reality of the day-to-day lives of service users.
- Address complex needs holistically: Many people in the Criminal Justice System have a range of complex problems that need to be addressed together, but commissioning is sometimes siloed.
- Commission services for equality groups: One-size-fits-all services will not work for many offenders. Commissioners need to engage with equality groups to design and deliver specialist services.
- Maximise market diversity: The consequences of not developing a diverse market of service providers can be costly, but often commissioners struggle to enable smaller organisations to participate.
- Facilitate collaboration: Collaboration is valuable, but takes time and resources; and competitive tendering can affect relationships between local providers.
- Encourage subcontracting: The prime/subcontractor model is fast becoming the dominant model in commissioning [for criminal justice], but more thought needs to be given to the relationship between commissioner and subcontractor.
- Enable innovation and measure the right results: It can be challenging to define and measure progress towards desistance, but embedding social value into commissioning decisions can help.
- Use grants as well as contracts: Grants can be a cost-effective way of investing in organisations that carry out activity which achieves social outcomes desired by commissioners.
- Re-tender and decommission effectively: Re-tendering involves costs to the commissioner, current provider and bidders, and is not always necessary. The complexity of the procurement process should be proportionate to the scale of the service being commissioned.
What do you think? Are CLINKs on to something? Which elements resonate with you and why? You can download the original report from http://www.clinks.org/resources-reports/more-provider-role-voluntary-sector-commissioning-offender-services