National Probation Service


Issue 31

February 2006

A detailed comprehensive consultation is being carried out in the National Probation Service to identify the user requirement for new facilities management contracts that need to be in place by the Spring of 2007. The NPD retender exercise now forms part of the Home Office Estates Review (HOER), which is responsible for procuring the Facilities and Estates Management contracts. NPD will develop a user requirement from the current consultation process, to be provided to the HOER for implementation. NPD/NOMS will then continue to monitor the process on behalf of the National Probation Service to ensure these agreed requirements are delivered. A staged approach has been adopted for this exercise the key elements of which are as follows: • • • Conference 20 October 2005 Staff surveys November 2005 Strategic review 6 December 2005

The 20 October conference was attended by nominees from across the Service at all levels and sought to identify the key problems/issues arising from the current contracts since their commencement in 2002. A survey was commissioned which provided detailed feedback on the facilities management services delivered to NPS buildings. This comprised a general survey to all 20,000 staff and a more detailed questionnaire issued to managers with responsibility for premises. An encouraging response has allowed an insight into staff opinions, which will contribute to the overall consultation process. The initial results of this work were reported in December to a review group comprising nominated Chiefs and Chairs able to consider the strategic implications for the new contracts. A summary of the issues arising from the consultation exercise to date is set out below. User groups have been formed for the next phase of the consultation exercise, including one for each of the approved premises, and commercial premises estates. These are developing the scope of services from the findings of the initial work. The programme is anticipated to last until April 2006, though the user groups will have a continuing role during implementation and monitoring of the new facilities management contracts.

20th October – National Conference The conclusions of the 20 October conference suggested that the scope of the facilities management service was too great. The current division into three regions should be replaced by a larger number though this remains to be confirmed subject to the review of the structure of the organisation and tests of commercial viability. Customer focussed delivery was essential and communications should be improved through better IT infrastructure, Help Desk functions and regular dialogue between local and central users. The obligations/responsibilities of the parties need to be made clear and the position of the probation service as customer in the service delivery process fully recognised. Sufficient resources should be allocated for management of the contracts and supported by robust performance monitoring with sanctions for non performance but also with incentives for the contractor. The particular needs of the approved premises and central importance to the management of offenders needs to be recognised. The current contracts have resulted in a loss of control and the separation of “soft services”. The return of the housekeeper role would help to address these issues. The service needs to be involved in the recruitment of staff for key services such as catering and cleaning that interface with offenders. The service needs to adopt a role of ‘intelligent client’ for which management resources at local and central level are required. The allocation of funding for management of the estate should be clearly defined and there was a need for flexibility in the procurement of services through framework contracts, to overcome service failure by the provider. Issues highlighted across all elements of the service by the staff survey. Better information and improved training on the operation of the help desk is required. This should include procedures for escalation and complaint in the event of failure. A web-based system would assist tracking of jobs and improve communications. Procedures for emergency repairs, small works and planned maintenance need to be addressed. Emergency works should be measured on completion, not response, Probation staff need to be kept informed of works’ progress. While cleaning operations were generally considered satisfactory there were specific issues relating to the deep cleaning of approved premise kitchens and soft furnishings. External works and waste recycling services required particular attention. With regard the approved premises the soft services of catering and linen were the focus of negative responses. The number of meals provided to residents needs to be confirmed and issues regarding size of portion and menu variety need to be addressed. Flexibility in the contract arrangements is critical to ensuring that the service delivered can be adjusted as needs change.

Additional services were not required in the commercial estate rather the existing should be carried out effectively. For the approved premises, services that contribute to the life skills of residents, such as training in catering and cleaning were required. An increase in meal provision to three per day and the renewal of furniture was also requested. Strategic Review – 6th December 2005 The strategic review with senior National Probation Service management endorsed the findings of the surveys and the consultation conference but provided comment on wider strategic issues. Core facilities management services need to be delivered effectively and on a commercial footing. Customer focus needs to be maintained and therefore new agreements should accommodate anticipated developments in the probation service business implied by contestability and strategic change in the organisation. It was recognised that space can be used better and the “fixed asset base” reduced to get better value for money.

For details on the management of the retendering exercise and contacts, see Briefings 27 & 29. Any comments on the Contract retender please contact

Further Briefings like this one will be produced as necessary and will be posted on the National Probation Service website at:>News and Updates>Briefings Issued by NPD Communications