Our customers have often drafted us in after a poor experience with the Public Sector Resourcing (PSR) framework.

However, what we saw was there was usually a long wait before they called for help. 

The perception our clients had was that using PSR was the only compliant way to get non-permanent resources.

Regardless of the quality of service they received, they felt obliged to use the service, even though it gave them grief.

In this post, we give a low down on the PSR framework, look at why it will underperform for your needs, and what you can do about it. 

What is the PSR framework?

For the last 8+ years, the public sector strategy has been to negotiate a deal with a single tier-1 neutral vendor. The intention is to funnel all contingent labour requirements across all departments through this master contract. The PSR provider could engage other recruitment agencies, but only as a Tier 2 vendor.

Previously, Capita ran the service (Contingent Labour One framework, as it was then called). Now, Alexander Mann Solutions runs it. They are both great companies. No criticism in this post is attributed to them.

Why was the PSR framework created?

The central cause for the Government setting up PSR was to make use of the Government’s buying power. It was probably very aggressively negotiated. Not surprisingly, PSR is a cheap way of accessing contingent labour talent.

Having all departments use one framework also gave the centre visibility of the spend and the ability to influence it. The standardisation of terms and processes also brought in predictability and familiarity.

Who is using PSR?

Not all Digital and IT roles are going in through Public Sector Resourcing. For example, DOS has at least 3 Digital and IT live vacancies that could have been in PSR’s terrain.

Moreover, 65% of the published opportunities on PSR are inside IR35. Such opportunities do not attract all of the contingent labour talent pool. Conversely, we see a lot of traffic on the Digital Outcomes and Services framework with specialist requirements that could well have been in PSR’s domain.

Why PSR will underperform your needs

There are a few reasons why.

1) One size doesn’t fit all

To have similar service levels for all kinds of work in the public sector is too broad-brush an approach. A 4-6 week lead time in filling a Finance administrator role, for instance, would only result in some files and reports taking longer to close.

But a similar lead time in filling a Business Intelligence Architect position for a time-boxed programme may mean millions of pounds of delayed benefits.

2) A large amount of staffing effort

Public Sector Resourcing takes a large amount of staffing effort from the existing programme team. Your team may spend lots of time preparing long briefs, chasing your agency, reviewing piles of CVs, or interviewing hundreds of people.

3) You have no influence

That you run a mission-critical IT transformation programme has no bearing on the PSR provider’s work queue. You will probably be served based on when your requirement reached their inbox. 

4) Lack of creativity

Do you have something specific you wish to do during the recruitment process? For example, add an exercise for the screening, or is there a particular script you’d like the sifting staff to run past the candidates? See how that fits in.

5) A passive approach to IR35

Whilst we don’t advocate being aggressive with IR35 avoidance measures, it is also not acceptable to slavishly apply HMRC guidance on a worst-case scenario basis. At least not without first fully exploring alternatives.

The effect of an inside-IR35 role on the business is that it has to select people from a smaller pool of people who apply. This does not guarantee great programme outcomes. The high proportion of inside IR35 opportunities on the PSR website does not enthuse confidence.

Mindful has been a thought leader in the IR35 space – some of our thinking has been published in Personnel Today, Accountancy Age and People Management.

What can you do about it?

Possibly, quite a lot.

First, think through what you want from your managed professional services provider for your Digital Programme. Our clients have typically wanted:

  • A bespoke screening and filter process
  • Much more aggressive turnaround times than they get from PSR
  • Statement of Work (SOW) based services

Next, compare that against what is obtainable from PSR. And, make the case internally to source your own Programme Managed Professional Services provider.

We compare the PSR framework with a managed service provider offering in our blog post: Which Route to Market Should You Take? MSP vs The PSR Framework.

What’s Next?

Although the PSR framework is likely to be a cheaper alternative, it lacks the creativity of a managed service provider.

Take a look at our Programme Services, to see how we can help you build a high-calibre client-side function that can operate on terms that are attractive (outside IR35) to the best client-side professionals.

With in-house commercial expertise, we can guide you through how you can satisfy policies and controls, whilst still choosing the right fit interim resourcing service for your Digital Programme.

Programme Services