Like Russell, I've attended meetings full of assorted aspiring privateers and carpet baggers anxious to get a slice of the probation action. But inexorably most soon begin to show signs of losing the will to live as the problems with the 'detail' begin to sink in. In true understated style, Russell himself identifies the following problems for the Ministry of Justice as they attempt to draw up contracts. He also concedes it's not an exhaustive list by any means:-
- The contracts must be long enough to encourage a wide range of providers to bid while still providing break clauses for those that under-perform.
- The proportion of the contract paid on a successful outcome/PbR basis must be big enough to drive innovation and improved performance but small enough to be a realistic financial model that medium and smaller providers can bid for.
- While it is reasonable enough for price to be part of the awarding criteria of any public contract, it will be hard to assess likely quality, especially since most providers won’t have a track record in reducing reoffending.
- The contracts should promote innovation with the intention of sharing best practice, but at the same time may have to allow providers to keep at least some of their intellectual property rights.
- There is also a substantial challenge in designing an outcome metric which includes both binary and frequency measures of reoffending.
- The contracts must be large enough to have substantial cohorts so that outcome metrics can be valid, but flexible enough to reflect local needs and existing effective partnerships.
He draws a handy Venn diagram, but a magnifying glass is required in order to find the 'sweet spot' that would get hearts racing amongst prospective bidders.
Sometimes you just have to admit that the brilliant idea you had is basically crap. It ain't going to work and the sooner you face up to the fact and change direction, the better for us all!
Sign the No10 petition here.