Commissioning for the criminal justice system
What does good commissioning look like? Callyane Desroches takes a closer look in a whiteboard video
Hi, my name is Callyane and I work at Crest Advisory for the Strategy and Insight team. Today I’d like to speak a little bit about commissioning for the criminal justice system. We’re going to see: who commissions, what good commissioning looks like, and how to get there.
So, first, who commissions?
As their name says, police and crime commissioners are those who are responsible for commissioning services for the criminal justice system. Think of them as elected members of the public who sit on a pot of money that they can spend on the police, or on services to improve their community’s safety. The process by which they purchase those services is what I mean by commissioning.
So what does good commissioning look like?
Good commissioning responds to local needs. Good commissioning connects people and organisations together. Good commissioning does not break the bank. And good commissioning, overall, is about improving community safety.
My experience from working directly with PCCs and local police forces is that there are three main building blocks in good commissioning. The first one is relationships, and that helps you build the second one, which is structure, which at the end of the day ensures that you achieve your outcomes, which is the third one.
So firstly, your relationships. What does a good relationship bring? Good relationships brings you knowledge, and it brings you inside perspective of what’s going on. You want to create a good relationship with your service users and with your service providers. Users because that tells you about the needs; providers because that tells you about what the solutions are. You want to consult your local community on that.
Secondly, good relationships bring you good will. That means you have a good rapport and that means you’re going to have support as you negotiate change through the process of commissioning.
Once you’ve got that sorted, you want to move to the second point which is your structure, which is really in my mind the key thing to think about when you want successful commissioning. You want to do two things. Firstly you want to clarify your asks. That allows your service providers to respond to what you want with more precision. The second thing is you want to decide on options. You want to tailor the right contracts for the right services and this is particularly true around funding. For example you might choose to fund something through tendering. That means that you’re going to deal with an organisation more like a business. It tends to be bigger organisations and longer contracts. You might also want to look at grants. That tends to be for shorter time periods, smaller organisations, and perhaps a smaller target population. And then you might have the cherry on top which is Payment by Results, and that’s used if you want to twist the way an organisation works a little bit.
The other thing you want to think about in structuring contracts is setting monitoring and evaluation processes right from the start. You need to distribute responsibility so people know who they are accountable to and what they need to provide.
Once that’s done, as a commissioner, things should just tick along and you don’t need to rely on relationships so much as in the first step.
Once you’ve gone through a structure, that’s when you really want to have achieved your outcomes. I choose the word outcomes because it’s different from outputs. Outcomes is the difference that your output makes. An output is something that’s tangible; it’s the actual thing that you’re commissioning. It might be a training programme, it might be a mental health support officer, but your outcome is the difference those things and people make to your general community.
However, you still need something measurable to go by, so you need to define what success looks like and you need to define goals that are tangible. And this is where I like to use the SMART method. SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-based.
There are lots of tools out there; you can choose which one works for you. Once you’ve got to that stage, hopefully you’ll have achieved a difference and what you want to do is go back again to the relationship part, connect and gather more information. It’s a cycle. Commissioning really starts as soon as a police and crime commissioner is elected, and it goes all the way through its mandate, and only finishes when a new commissioner comes in.
If you want to hear anything more, whether you’re a commissioner or a bidder, do get in touch on crestadvisory.com