Funds allocated to help the sector compete for offender rehabilitation work

A package aimed at enabling charities to win contracts for probation services has been announced by the Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Justice

The Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Justice have announced a package of measures designed to help voluntary sector organisations compete to run services to try to cut reoffending.

It comes after the MoJ announced reforms last week that will allow charities to bid for payment-by-results contracts to reduce reoffending.

As part of the package announced today, the Social Investment Business, which manages the Cabinet Office’s £10m Investment and Contract Readiness Fund, said that some of the remaining £6m of the fund will be available to help social ventures get ready to deliver rehabilitation services contracts.

The SIB said in a statement that social ventures intending to become prime providers or work in the rehabilitation supply chain, and bidding for contracts valued at £500,000 or more, could apply for grants up to £150,000.

"The grants will help social ventures partner with one of the fund’s 30 specialist providers of a range of professional services including law, financial management, corporate finance and public service commissioning to become investment- or contract-ready," it said.

The package also includes legal support to help check voluntary organisations’ contractual terms and conditions with main providers and the development of a "financial modelling tool", which will allow voluntary organisations to assess subcontracting offers.

"There was a lot of criticism with the Work Programme that voluntary organisations signed contracts without realising what was in them," said a MoJ spokesman. "This support will help provide organisations which are offered subcontracts with impartial advice to ensure they don’t get into contracts they cannot afford."

The government will also run a series of workshops to help voluntary organisations understand the reform process and develop the necessary skills to compete for and deliver rehabilitation services. And it will create a database of voluntary organisations and mutuals involved in rehabilitation of offenders to help organisations form partnerships and consortia.

A statement from the MoJ said that many of these measures were being introduced in response to recommendations from the social enterprise 3SC. The consortium, set up to help charities win public sector contracts, was awarded £150,000 by the MoJ at the beginning of the year to help it identify barriers to third sector involvement in payment-by-results contracts.

The money awarded to 3SC was part of a £500,000 pot to help voluntary sector groups successfully bid for and deliver payment-by-results contracts for managing and reforming offenders. A MoJ spokesman said the remaining £350,000 would be used to deliver the financial model, provide the legal support and run the workshops.

"We will now compete out for someone to deliver these and once they are up and running, voluntary sector organisations will be able to approach them for advice," he said. He added that the workshops would be available to organisations before bidding to run services, but the legal support and financial model would only be available to organisations that were chosen to deliver contracts.

Ian Thurlby-Campbell, head of business development at 3SC, said it was delighted that the MoJ had taken up many of its recommendations. "The support that is being introduced as a result will help the voluntary and community sector to establish sound commercial and legal partnership arrangements for the probation reform competitions, and to access the capacity-building resources that it needs to fulfil its full potential in this market," he said. "We hope to see this recognition and support continue into the long-term future."

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