I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. My Department is now at an advanced stage in its first phase of a two-phase procurement of new employment services. This procurement process follows extensive engagement by my Department with existing service partners over the last number of years. The new regional employment service model will extend high quality employment services across the State, deliver enhanced governance arrangements, ensure contracts are on a sound legal footing and provide successful tenderers with greater flexibility to innovate and deliver services for their clients.
The Department is currently reflecting on feedback from phase 1 and amending the request for tender for phase 2, as appropriate. Specifically, based on feedback received, officials are examining the minimum referral numbers but also are looking at how payment scheduling can assist cash flow for potential tenderers. In addition, on 9 November my Department hosted a webinar for more than 150 people with an interest in tendering for the procurement of employment services where questions were taken and written feedback sought in advance of the phase 2 procurement. That feedback is also proving valuable in finalising the phase 2 request for tenders. The analysis resulting in identified lessons will be reflected in the phase 2 request for tenders, which will be published before the end of the year.
The request for tenders for phase 2 will issue before the end of this year and will incorporate the key learnings from phase 1. The Department is continuing to consult with interested providers, including existing service partners. I strongly encourage existing service partners to work together to provide joint bids under the phase 2 procurement process. Contracts under phase 2 for the regional employment service will be awarded primarily on the basis of quality, the provider's community linkages, the ability of tenderers to access a wide range of services to meet their client's needs and importantly, to deliver social value. This approach focuses on delivering quality outcomes and assisting individuals to access tailored support for longer, focusing on achieving their key personal progression milestones.