Ministry of Justice opens bids for £66m probation contract

The Probation Service has invited bidders for five new offender management contracts as part of policy shake up

Bidding has begun for a £66m contract to provide rehabilitation programmes to the National Probation Service.

The Ministry of Justice has begun the tendering process to select providers that will help rebuild services to support people on probation in England and Wales.

The five-year contract, worth £66m, will begin from October 2020 as part of the process to bring offender management programmes back under the control of the National Probation Service following the disastrous privatisation programme that was halted earlier this year.

The government partly-privatised services in 2013 with the introduction of Community Rehabilitation Companies but this was halted after mounting criticism and a damning annual report by the Chief Inspector of Probation.

Missed targets and an increase in the number of offenders being returned to prison showed that the system was, according to Dame Glenys Stacey, “irredeemably flawed” and needed a major rethink.

The programme was shelved by the MoJ with costs estimated at nearly £500m.

Dame Glenys set out how she wanted to see services delivered: “Any new probation model must focus on quality. In my view, effective probation work is most likely when good leaders are free to manage, motivate and develop professional staff, who are in turn able to build challenging but supportive relationships with offenders. Specialist and local services are also crucial to help offenders turn their lives around.”

The Ministry of Justice has responded by creating a single bidder for this contract and confirmed that small firms, community groups and social enterprises could bid.

The contract will focus on sourcing and managing unpaid work and running accredited programmes.

Providers must also be able to provide “other structured interventions” in the areas of emotional management, domestic abuse and behavioural change.

One of the biggest criticisms of the privatisation programme was that there was too much variation in the service provision that led to poor outcomes.

The Probation Service is using the procurement process to ensure there is no repeat.

The bidding document said: “Suppliers will work collaboratively with the National Probation Service improving quality and helping innovate in the delivery of the services. The contract will enable effective partnering with the flexibility to commission additional optional services.”