A strategic supplier success story: Ministry of Justice and Nacro

By Allan Watton on

It’s encouraging to focus an article on a success story. The one that caught our attention is the strategic supplier relationship between the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and social justice charity Nacro, whose role is to assist in the reform of ex-prisoners. This relationship seems to be going from strength to strength, according to Supply Management.

Government statistics on the prison population, from August 2020, identify that there are 76,269 men and 3,262 women in prison, making a total population of 79,531. This is a lot, particularly when held up against the useable operational prison capacity of 81,664. We can see that the system is at near maximum capacity, with a mere 2.6% of headroom left.

The goal of the prison system, for most inmates, is to rehabilitate and transition them from offenders to those who have served their time and are ready to re-enter society. The smooth execution of that goal is all the more important as prisons reach capacity and cell accommodation space is in short supply in many areas of the country.

For some prisoners, the transition from prison to re-entering society is achieved through a form of ‘halfway house’, by taking up one of 550 beds in houses and apartments located across England and Wales. These are provided to prevent ex-prisoners from being homeless in order to ensure them secure temporary accommodation while they get their lives back on track, post-prison.

Statistics tell us that two-thirds of ex-prisoners who find themselves homeless upon release reoffend within their first year of freedom. Indications are that there is some correlation between desperation and the illegal means of alleviating it. And with the prison system groaning at its seams and the purpose of prison to rehabilitate offenders, the pressure is on for the MoJ to come up with a solution.

The Bail Accommodation and Support Service (BASS) is responsible for this short-term accommodation. From 2010 to 2018, the contract for providing this service was with Home Group. During their tenure, an MoJ report into reoffending showed that 8% fewer ex-prisoners reoffended when they went through the Short Terms Accommodation (STA) service – with 31% reoffending when compared with a control group where 39% reoffended.

From 2018, Nacro took over this contract. At the time the organisation’s Chief Executive Jacob Tas said: “Every month, around 1,000 people are homeless or sleeping rough on release from prisonMany people within our prisons have tragic and chaotic backgrounds that led them there in the first place; they are supposed to receive punishment for their crimes and to be equipped with what it will take for them to build a better life when they are released. We know through our own work to support vulnerable and disadvantaged people across the country that, all too often, people released from prison into our local communities struggle to secure a place to live. In many cases this can lead to repeat offending, further victims of crime and the lost opportunity for someone to turn their lives aroundTo tackle reoffending and help people move away from crime once and for all, we must ensure that everyone leaving prison has somewhere safe and secure to live and the right health, employment and education support in place.”

What is Nacro?

Nacro is a national social justice charity with roots that stretch back all the way to the formation of the Central Committee of Discharged Prisoners’ Aid Societies in 1880.

The organisation specialises in education, housing, health and justice and has a mission to “deliver social justice by positively changing lives, strengthening communities and preventing crime”, helping tens of thousands of disadvantaged people to turn their lives around each year.

They describe the Bail Accommodation and Support Service they are now responsible for providing, as follows: “We provide a mix of one-bed self-contained flats and two, three- and four-bed shared houses with communal living space, kitchen and bathroom. Families can be accommodated where needed. Nacro Support Officers undertake regular visits to provide mandatory support and to monitor adherence to bail conditions and any licence requirements. We also help individuals to find stable accommodation to move on to and offer support with employment, managing money, health and wellbeing, substance misuse and relationship building if necessary.”

Successful Collaboration

According to the article in Supply Management, the MoJ has taken an impressive multi-agency approach to the problem at hand, drawing in HM Prison and Probation Service, Department for Communities, local governments and the Department for Work and Pensions to look at ways of improving the service and the results it achieves.

Maralyn Fawell, Senior Commercial Manager at the MoJ, is reported as saying: “It was the collaboration we instigated, among groups not normally working together, that pulled this project together.”

Supply Management reported that “procurement teams assessed bidders not just on the transparency of their costs, service and ICT requirements, but also on their strategies for reducing reoffending rates. Because the majority of suppliers were SMEs, it also helped ensure small organisations were not detrimentally impacted by the process”.

One such issue was the ability to keep track of the space available on the scheme when for one reason or another, beds that are not full become unavailable, for instance, when building work or repairs are required on a property. In the previous incarnation of the contract, the MoJ would likely, on occasion, be paying for capacity that was not available. So, in the new contract, payment for beds ‘in service’ was established, shifting the risk of availability and the responsibility for more rapidly making them available once again to the service provider.

Strategic Supplier Success – Award

Nacro has been so successful in its role that the procurement team was given the award for Collaborative Teamwork – Public Sector at the CIPS SM Awards 2019.

Bed availability has improved and the new payment structure ensures that the taxpayer only pays for bed capacity that is available. Quality assessments have also improved, with Maralyn Fawell reported as saying: “Their performance and dedication has been great.”

So, a good news story of a service provider committed to improving standards and achieving that goal while providing its service at a fairer cost.

Having worked on over 500 complex supplier relationships, there are eight characteristics present in every successful complex relationship. To assure maximum value, improve service innovation and drive down BAU costs, take a look at these key steps in our Optimise process.