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Catch22 responds to green paper on “Transforming public procurement”

The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, taken from across the River Thames. Overlaid is text that reads: "Consultation Response".

In March 2021, the Government sought responses to a Green Paper on ways to speed up and simplify our procurement processes, place value for money at their heart, and unleash opportunities for small businesses, charities and social enterprises to innovate in public service delivery.

Catch22 has been at the forefront of public service reform for more than 200 years and our commitment to doing things differently in order to have greater impact has remained a constant. In 2016, the Catch22 reform ‘end game’ was formally adopted. We are intent on delivering our frontline services well – then capturing the experience and learning from our service delivery. This enables us to argue from a position of strength how public services can be better designed and delivered, achieving better outcomes for those who use them.

We’re constantly looking for ways to improve how public services are delivered such as: building new governance structures to build the capacity of smaller organisations; designing and delivering innovative services that produce better outcomes; collaborating with commissioners and service users to design new ways of working; providing a platform for smaller charities that share our social mission and vision for public service reform; and, partnering in new ways with businesses to deliver social outcomes.

As charities have increasingly taken on the delivery of more public services, they have had to shift their own models to behave like, and compete, with other businesses – social businesses. We are delivering in a highly competitive marketplace with tiny margins, but often without the backing or trust that is so often placed in the corporate sector. As Julian Blake and Frank Villeneuve-Smith set-out in The Art of the Possible in Public Procurement, the current market driven approach to people-centric service delivery has reached its end and a step change towards a healthier model is required. We need to look at doing things another way.

Core recommendations

We believe it is of fundamental importance to make a distinction between goods and Public Services, especially social and community focused Public Services, and that the procurement of Public Services should be seen as part of a wider commissioning process.

We think there is a need for the introduction of measures in the regulations to promote collaborative principles in addition to market theory and the inclusion of new instruments that can support collaboration in the provision of Public Services.

We note that the Government’s Health White Paper is encouraging such collaboration for health services and we believe there is a clear need for “collaboration theory” in relation to Public Services. We welcome the opportunity this change to procurement law brings to promote cultural change in how public procurement is carried out.

  • Distinct principles are needed for Public Services, especially based on: collaboration; partnership; co-design, co-investment; co-delivery; cross-public sector integration; multi-sector, multi-stakeholder collaboration; community partnerships; long-term development projects; preventative planning and action; and Innovation Partnerships.
  • The Innovation Partnership procedure is extremely important and should be built upon, not lost. It uniquely addresses the need for procedure to establish developmental partnership, rather than service contract, relationships. Uniquely it provides for design and delivery in the same contract. Many Public Authorities were interested in them for Public Services. Two of the few there are have been award-winning for innovation (Leicestershire Children’s Services and Oldham Social Prescribing). There are few because of the risk averse procurement culture – “we can’t do it, because no one else has done it”.