BACKGROUND

The Huckfield Killing Social Enterprise Softly briefing last week was pessimistic about the openings available for Social Enterprise and Third Sector organisations in their bidding to deliver public services.

The Work Programme is the Government’s preferred delivery model. With a few large contracts and major providers taking the risk it’s easy to administer. Social Enterprises and the Third Sector are very junior partners. Killing Social Enterprise Softly also mentioned the way in which HM Prisons and the National Offender Management Service are now contracting out more HM Prison and offender management services, again using the prime contractor model.

With many others, Huckfield on Friday 24 February attended a briefing by SERCO, Catch 22 and Turning Point at Durham University, with SERCO as lead partner in The Local Alliance. Another partnership of HM Prisons, Working Well, Shaw Trust and Mitie is also doing the rounds. No wonder that some Durham questioners wondered whether they should submit Expressions of Interest to more than one prime!

Well Done, NOMS

National Offender Management Service is now offering a ray of hope for Social Enterprises and the Third Sector in England. The NOMS briefing Huckfield attended on Wednesday 14 March in Leeds was much more cheering since the presenters clearly wanted to support Social Enterprises to take part.

Congratulations are due to the NOMS management team who are delivering this ESF Technical Assistance programme, especially for taking the trouble to hold this series of seminars at an appropriate level. This is the closest that many of us have come to the “ESF Good Old Days” before CoFinancing, under which organisations had more bidding flexibility. Perhaps there might be more Huckfield thoughts on ESF CoFinancing another day?

To Save Yourself Time

Since this is a detailed Huckfield briefing, to save time, use this link to go straight to HOW TO BID below. This enables you to skip background details and takes you directly to details of the NOMS ESF Technical Assistance current bidding process for Social Enterprises in England.

THE NOMS EXAMPLE

This Section below describes other ESF CoFinancing Organisations which may have access to Technical Assistance support for Social Enterprises and the Third Sector. ESF Technical Assistance is not delivery funding but funding to enhance delivery capabilities.

Other ESF CoFinancing Organisations Please Copy

This Section below suggests lessons for others from the way in which NOMS is operating its ESF CoFinanced Programme. This Section also mentions Wise Group – a Social Enterprise from Scotland – which is delivering the DWP’s Troubled Families “Family Wise” ESF programme in the North East.

TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

This Section below describes ESF Technical Assistance and how NOMS will operate its Programme to support Social Enterprises and the Third Sector.

ESF Technical Assistance

This Section below shows how the European Social Fund defines Technical Assistance.

NOMS Technical Assistance

This Section below describes how NOMS will operate ESF Technical Assistance to support Social Enterprise and the Third Sector.

NOMS Rationale for Technical Assistance

This Section below shows NOMS’ reasoning behind using Technical Assistance in this way.

HOW TO BID

This Section below describes in detail the way in which the bidding process will operate.

Main Aim of this Bidding Opportunity

This Section below describes some key features of the bidding process.

Approach to Bidding

This Section below describes what NOMS seeks to achieve through inviting Social Enterprises to bid for Technical Assistance support.

Timescales and Funding

This Section below describes the timescale and funding ‘lots’ for which Social Enterprises can bid. There are 15 bidding ‘lots’ across England.

Key Bidding Requirements

This Section below describes the most important issues to keep in mind while initiating a bid. Once bidders register their interest, there is time between April and June 2012 to work up a full proposal.

Projected Outcomes

This Section below shows what NOMS would like to achieve from the Technical Assistance bidding process.

NEXT STEPS

This Section below gives further details of forthcoming Huckfield briefings, which will focus on encouraging other ESF CoFinancing Organisations to follow the NOMS example of making Technical Assistance available to Social Enterprises and the Third Sector.

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MAIN HUCKFIELD BRIEFING BEGINS HERE:

Links have already been provided above to those sections which now follow.

THE NOMS EXAMPLE

This Section provides further background on NOMS Technical Assistance bidding.

Other ESF CoFinancing Organisations Please Copy

Though the Work Programme has an Innovation Fund available to assist organisations, this is not processed in the same way.

This Huckfield briefing hopes that other ESF CoFinancing Organisations, including the Department of Work and Pensions and Skills Funding Agency – which have bigger ESF allocations than NOMS – will please copy the NOMS example. Their ESF CoFinanced programmes include Technical Assistance. Following further discussion, some of this might be used in the same way.

DWP uses ESF to support a range of delivery programmes, including supporting troubled families. Many DWP and other programmes seek to reach those hardest to help. This is not ideal territory for big prime contractors, which need the services of smaller Social Enterprises and Third Sector organisations to achieve their outputs. At least one of the DWP’s ESF CoFinanced Troubled Families prime contractors – the Wise Group in the North East – is a strong Social Enterprise.

Though this Huckfield briefing recognises that the current 2007-2013 EU Structural Funds Programme is nearing a conclusion, previous EU Programme experience shows it will take until 2015 to wind up the Programme. Huckfield briefings will continue to press for other ESF CoFinancing Organisations to use any Technical Assistance in ways similar to NOMS and also for some ESF in the new 2014-2020 EU Structural Funds Programme, when this is agreed, to be used in the same way.

The NOMS High-level specification for Social Enterprise (SE) Consortia Building programme (Technical Assistance funded) also refers to page 5 of the EU Sustainable Development Strategy 10917/06 from 2006:

“INVOLVEMENT OF BUSINESSES AND SOCIAL PARTNERS
Enhance the social dialogue, corporate social responsibility and private-public partnerships to foster cooperation and common responsibilities to achieve sustainable consumption and production”.

A further Huckfield briefing will feature Community Benefit in Sustainable Procurement, which also supports Social Enterprise and Third Sector delivery and fits within the EU Sustainable Development Strategy.

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TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

This Section describes how NOMS will use ESF Technical Assistance to help Social Enterprises and the Third Sector.

ESF Technical Assistance

This Technical Assistance is not a bidding opportunity to deliver services but rather to help Social Enterprises to form consortia or new structures to deliver. The European Social Fund England site explains Technical Assistance:

“Technical Assistance (TA) funds finance the preparatory, management, monitoring, evaluation, information and control activities of the Operational Programme, together with activities to reinforce the administrative capacity for implementing the funds, at national and regional levels. These funds are predominantly used to support CoFinancing Organisations (CFOs) in delivering ESF as they are responsible for 95% of programme activity”.

NOMS Technical Assistance

On page 3 of the High Level Specification for Social Enterprise (SE) Consortia Building programme , NOMS has defined its use of Technical Assistance more specifically. Through using ESF Technical Assistance NOMS seeks:

“to develop the Social Enterprise market place to better enable such organisations to participate in the current and future Cofinance programmes. This procurement opportunity has the expressed aim of enabling consortia building within the social enterprise sector, with a particular focus on SMEs in the market. This opportunity is designed to enable the sector to organise into entities or structures that can, through working with NOMS CFO and others help to deliver policy objectives.

“This opportunity is therefore designed to test how enterprises and other organisations can work together to create a ‘value’ or ’supply chain’ that can offer offenders the opportunity to gain skills and employment (supported by other multi-pathway interventions). These value or supply chains should also create environmental and social benefit beyond that experienced by the participants themselves and which is offered through a single contract to the Authority or one of its prime providers.”

It is important to note that though this is a bidding opportunity for NOMS ESF Technical Assistance, the successful Social Enterprises do not necessarily have to use their new structures for NOMS delivery. However, since NOMS has regional prime contractors across England, it is advisable to discuss any bids with them first. Contact details are provided below in HOW TO BID below.

Rationale for NOMS Technical Assistance

The High Level Specification for Social Enterprise (SE) Consortia Building programme in Background on page 1 shows that:

“NOMS Co-Financing (CFO) Programme will provide support to approximately 110,000 offenders by December 2014. The Co-Financing Programme is supported by money from the European Social Fund (ESF) and then matched with complimentary delivery through NOMS contracted out provision. Estimated total programme value is in excess of £275m. Delivery is via a prime or consortia contractor model, with specialist delivery provided by sub-contractors or partners.

“As part of the delivery requirement, each prime provider must have a Social Enterprise element and there should be a strong link between the main programme and the additional work commissioned via Technical Assistance”.

NOMS deserves credit here for insisting that prime contractors must include Social Enterprise elements – which this Technical Assistance programme is designed to support.

Page 1 of the High Level Specification for Social Enterprise (SE) Consortia Building programme continues with an explanation of why NOMS is doing this:

“The government is committed to removing pre-qualification processes for contracts under £100,000 but this is unlikely to impact on CFO procurement as the lots have been and will probably remain substantially above that level. The only opportunities therefore for SME Social Enterprises to participate would be either as part of a substantive consortium able to meet the prime provider thresholds or more likely as a sub contractor.

“The current CFO phase 2 contracts (worth in total £89m) have 419 subcontractors /partners, of which only 36 (8.5%) are currently identified as Social Enterprises. This relatively low level of representation, together with the anecdotal evidence collected at NOMS CFO Programme regional events and more informal consultation indicates that some structural intervention is necessary in order to achieve programme objectives”.

NOMS thus clearly recognises that there is inadequate participation from Social Enterprises and the Technical Assistance programme seeks to do something about it.

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HOW TO BID

This Section highlights some of the main points to keep in mind during the bidding process.

Main Aim of this Bidding Opportunity

Page 3 of the High Level Specification explains:

“NOMS CFO has secured additional Technical Assistance funding from ESF to develop a number of elements to increase the effectiveness of the Co-financing Programme, which will deliver services to offenders to increase access to mainstream opportunities up to 2014. One of these elements includes a programme of work designed to develop the social enterprise market place to better enable such organisations to participate in the current and future Co-finance programmes”

On page 4 of the High Level Spefication, NOMS explains:

“The primary objective is to award grants for the creation of new SE consortia models that will be able to better participate in current and future tendering opportunities. The Authority will also be providing Technical Support to underpin this procurement, with a separate procurement opportunity to be launched during the coming months for defined Technical Support.”

“Potential consortia models will need to demonstrate how multiple partners (or elements of the chain) offer specialist services or capacity or trading environments; each will also need to demonstrate as part of contract compliance, the additional value they are creating within the community or area in which they are/will be operating. The focus of this procurement is the development of the SE market place and the ability of small and medium sized enterprises to participate in wider CFO and other programmes.”

Approach to Bidding

The High Level Specification continues on page 4:

“Potential consortia models will need to demonstrate how they are supporting this development and incorporating partners from the sector. Potential consortia models will also need to evidence the strength of the SE offer in their proposal and the number of organisations involved”.

Though earlier information about this bidding opportunity indicated a deadline of Friday 23 March 2012 for Expressions of Interest, NOMs has made it clear that it will be acceptable for Social Enterprises to express an interest until the beginning of April. Since there is not yet an Official Expression of Interest Form, it is best to e mail Simon Ambrose at NOMS. His contact details are: Simon Ambrose, initial NOMS contact.

  • Simon’s phone is: 0300 047 5902
  • Simon’s address is: 2nd Floor, 2.15 Clive House, 70 Petty France, London, SW1H 9EX

It is only necessary at this stage for a bidder or lead bidder to express an interest, perhaps with a brief summary of what is intended. Though no official Expression of Interest forms are yet available, contact with NOMS ensures that they register your details and ensure that interested Social Enterprises receive all relevant information.

There will be a period from April until June to submit a full application. This April till June period should afford good time to enable new partnerships and consortia to develop their offering. They will have from November 2012 until 2014 to deliver their project.

At the Leeds Seminar on Wednesday 14 March, detailed advice was on offer about the kind of Third Sector organisations which might be suitable for delivery of services, whether a new legal body, lead body or external organisations. Once formed or strengthened, these new structures might proceed to deliver a wider range of services – not necessarily for NOMS prime contractors.

While at this stage only £1.25mn is on offer for ESF Technical Assistance to help Social Enterprises to form consortia and develop their capacity, all this is targeted directly at and biased in favour of Third Sector organisations.

There was also guidance at the Seminar on the constitutional structures which Third Sector bidders might ultimately assume – ranging from Unincorporated Organisations and Charitable Incorporated Organisations through Industrial and Provident Societies and Community Benefit Societies to Community Interest Companies.

The Leeds Seminar also strongly recommended making contact with the NOMS prime contractors for the areas concerned, since they obviously have an interest in the further development of their delivery capacity.

The NOMS Prime Contractor in the North East is Pertemps, where the contact is Mark Harrison. Contact details are: Mark Harrison – initial Pertemps contact

  • Mark’s phone is: 01642 495 460 and 077 396 77225
  • Mark’s address is: Pertemps People Development Group, 7-9 Queen Street, Redcar TS10 1DY

The NOMS Prime Contractor in the North West is Merseyside Probation Trust, where the contact is Tracey Hill. Contact details are: Tracey Hill – initial Merseyside Probation Trust contact

  • Tracey’s phone is: 01928 713 555
  • Tracey’s address is: Runcorn Probation Office, Norton House, Crowngate, Runcorn WA7 2UR

Once again, potential bidders are strongly advised to engage in an informal pre bidding dialogue with the relevant NOMS prime contractor to ensure that they are aware what you seek to do and may be able to help. If successful, Social Enterprises which receive Technical Assistance will be in a good position to assist with prime contractor delivery.

The NOMS CoFinanced ESF consists of £1.25mn with bids open for 15 lots:

England (excluding South West):

  • Lot 1: 1 x £250,000 This is for proposals that have national coverage
  • Lot 2: 2 x £150,000 These are for proposals that are at a regional level
  • Lot 3: 8 x £50,000 These are for ‘local’ proposals

South West (including Cornwall):

  • Lot 4: 2 x £100,000
  • Lot 5: 2 x £50,000

Once projects are up and running, the Technical Assistance grant at 100% will run from from November 2012 until October 2014. Additional technical support and advice will be made available to consortia lead organisations at different stages of the procurement process to enable them to strengthen and clarify their offer. The support will be universally available to all successful bidders at the respective stages within the same value lot.

Key Bidding Requirements

Page 6 of the High Level Specification shows that potential bidders should be able to demonstrate:

  • The viability of creating a value or supply chain that will result in a legally constituted consortium established as a Social Enterprise. Potential bidders must also ensure that they can evidence the ability to incorporate Social Enterprise partners in their proposed consortia models as well as evidence of engagement and commitment from identified partners.
  • That they have utilised the access to technical support (for example legal, governance, financial, HR) that will be provided by the Authority to assist in the development of their consortia, or utilised their own alternate support to evidence the viability of their proposals
  • That they have developed and can offer referral routes that will deliver skills, employment and where included other support (across the reducing re-offending pathways) for offenders and which can also demonstrate a wider impact within the communities or societies within which they are operating or delivering. Such impact may be financial, social, economic, re-generational, environmental or other impact that, for example fits with the EU’s definition of sustainable development
  • The effectiveness of their model through accepting referrals from CFO providers, probation trusts or prisons in sufficient numbers relevant to the scale of the offer outlined in the bid and through subsequent outcomes related to skills and employment.
  • The ability to participate in and contribute to the shared learning around evidencing social value in a way that will help test the approach envisaged by the Public Services (Social Value) Bill
  • That the potential consortia models are capable of funding their defined model through trading activity, social finance, contracts with CFO prime providers or funding obtained through other potential stakeholders (for example local or health authorities or housing associations) as a consequence of or in relation to the wider social impact that can be achieved

All this means that a wide range of technical support, additional posts, structures, systems and other changes might be funded – provided that NOMS can see that the Technical Assistance really is making a difference. NOMS will carry out usual required ESF monitoring duties.

Projected Outcomes

Page 6 of the High Level Specification shows that among NOMS’ anticipated outcomes will be:

  • 15 legally constituted consortiums with which the Authority or its providers can contract (through a single contract with each consortium) to support the delivery of objectives and outcomes outlined in their bids.
  • 15 cohesive (but potentially multi-faceted) referral routes that will deliver skills, employment and where included other support (across the reducing re-offending pathways) for offenders and which can also demonstrate a wider impact within the communities or societies within which they are operating or delivering. Such impact may be financial, social, economic, regenerational, environmental or other impact that, for example fits with the EUs definition of sustainable development.
  • Consortia to demonstrate the effectiveness of their model through accepting referrals from CFO providers, probation trusts or prisons in sufficient numbers relevant to the scale of the offer outlined in the bid and through subsequent outcomes related to skills and employment.
  • 15 consortia capable of funding their defined model through trading activity, social finance, contracts with CFO prime providers or funding obtained through other potential stakeholders (for example local or health authorities or housing associations) as a consequence of or in relation to the wider social impact that can be achieved.

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NEXT STEPS

Huckfield is a keen supporter of Social Enterprises. Further Huckfield briefings will feature:

  • discussions with possible Social Enterprise bidding organisations in the North East and North West with support and guidance
  • pressing for other ESF CoFinancing Organisations to use ESF Technical Assistance in similar ways to NOMS to support Social Enterprise and Third Sector Organisations
  • encouraging the Scottish Government in discussion with DWP and others to use CoFinanced ESF in Scotland in similar ways, including support for the Work Programme. Further Huckfield briefings will cover the Innovation Fund for the Work Programme, since initial bidding for Round 2 has just closed
  • encouraging and lobbying UK and Scottish Governments and ESF Cofinancing Organisations to make available ESF bidding opportunities for Social Enterprise and Third Sector Organisations, not just for Technical Assistance, but to fund their delivery too.

Finally, further Huckfield briefings will provide information as it becomes available.

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