New DWP Commissioning Strategy announced

The government has published its intentions for a 10-year programme of change to see one million more disabled people in work by 2027. The DWP commissioning strategy sets out, through a series of high-level principles, how it will work with providers and partners to deliver high-performing welfare to work services which maximise outcomes for claimants and value for the taxpayer.

The Employment Provision Commissioning Strategy sets out how the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) Employment Category will support those intentions and commission services to support the welfare system and employment. This will include assessing whether services should be delivered in-house or contracted out and encourages DWP Employment Category and their suppliers to deliver outcomes, focussing on four key areas:

  • Value for Money,
  • Leadership,
  • Market Management and
  • Innovation and Continuous Improvement.

DWP say that this Commissioning Strategy, supported by commercial processes and learning from evaluation data, provides a framework to enable DWP Employment Category to commission more intelligently and consistently and is a way of working within this landscape to achieve their objectives. It builds on the content of the Outsourcing Playbook and should inform how the Department uses the new Commercial Agreement for Employment and Health Related Services (CAEHRS).

BASE welcomes the statement about creating a level playing field.

DWP states that it "will work collaboratively with trade bodies and membership organisations to support capability-building activity for any and all prospective suppliers.

"For smaller organisations, we expect the focus of this activity to be on finance, risk and bid-writing. We will share lessons learnt from procurements upon which the market can learn alongside systematic publication of our commercial pipeline to enable organisations opportunity to develop plans, capacity, capability, and an evidence base to support tenders.

"We will also promote a level playing field through developing a more structured, standardised and proportionate procurement process to minimise transaction costs. We will have a focus around supply chain formation for larger opportunities, for example by using standardised Expression of Interest forms and continue advertise widely."

Other announcements in the document include:

  • a greater role for social investment;
  • a more transparent approach to describing performance expectations, performance information and supply chain management;
  • an integration of social value into commissioning, with a focus on the potential role of SMEs and social enterprises. This includes the use of smaller scale, localised contracts where appropriate;
  • a continued use of outcome-focused payment models as a prominent feature of future commissioning;
  • a more proactive approach to performance management and market stewardship.

The strategy contains an annex about how DWP will use an Employment Provision Supplier Code of Conduct to "set the minimum standards expected by DWP to achieve an inclusive culture of best practice and improved performance throughout DWP’s supply chains, by building trusting and open relationships with the supply base". There's a strong focus in the code on relationship management and it is unclear where this leaves the widely mistrusted Merlin Standard.