New Prisoner Escorting and Custody Services contract draws close

One of Serco Justice’s key contracts is the Prisoner Escort and Custody Services (PECS).

PECS provides safe and secure Prisoner Escort Services on behalf of the Ministry of Justice moving people quickly and efficiently between prisons or police stations and court appearances.

Currently, PECS is in the last days of the third generation of contract with the UK Ministry of Justice (MoJ) and in 2019, Serco signed a new £800m ten year contract with the MOJ to provide PECS for the whole of the South of England region.

The contracts tendered by the MoJ were for two regions of England and Wales, broadly North and South.  Serco has been selected to provide the service across the whole of the South of England region, which includes an area as far north as Gloucestershire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. 

This new contract will be known as PECS Generation 4 and will start on 29 August 2020 with a total estimated value to Serco of approximately £800m over the ten-year term.  

With PECS 4 close to launch, we spoke with Chris Hodkinson, Contract Operations Director at PECS about the experiences and challenges of the transition from Generation 3 to Generation 4.

To those who might not know, what is PECS 4?

Chris Hodkinson: “PECS 4 is not just an expansion of the existing contract, in so many ways it is an entirely new enterprise altogether.

“In terms of scale it is a big leap - with the number of courts we look after rising from 52 to 105, and our total area of responsibility expanding from 11,000 to 28,000 square miles, whilst we will also double the amount of people we look after on a monthly basis from 15,000 to 30,000.

“The nature of the contract will be different too – it is a digitised service with cutting edge technology providing near real time data to the customer. 

“Finally, we will also be incorporating the Youth and Children Custody Service into the operation, a particularly demanding and sensitive area for the PECS operation.”

What has been some the biggest challenges during the transition from PECS 3 to PECS 4?

CH: “I’d say that there are three main challenges that we’ve seen with this new contract. Firstly, the increase in automation, incorporating new and bespoke operational IT, which inevitably comes with a greater complexity and risk in our daily operations as we get it up and running.

“Another challenge has been the complex and sizeable process of bringing some 800 staff from GeoAmey into the Serco PECS family.

“And lastly, with the new generation of PECS come new key performance indicators (KPI’s) that are in many ways more exacting and demanding than the KPI’s in our current contract of PECS 3.  We have had to work hard to make sure that what we are standing up is going to deliver to them.”

With the launch of PECS 4 very close at hand, how are you and your colleagues feeling?

CH: “We are hugely excited about welcoming the new members of staff into the Serco PECS family, but perhaps understandably, we feel some apprehension with the sheer scale, complexity and risk that the new contract brings, and of course the weight of expectation of continuing the recent successes of the current PECS contract into the next.”

As the Director of such a large and complex contract, you must learn a lot of new things about PECs every day, could you share with us something new about PECs you’ve learnt recently?

CH: “First, our people never cease to amaze and impress me. Not a day goes by without someone in this contract doing something amazing.  

“Secondly, I’m always learning new things, through our established operational excellence, to do find new ways of working and improve our service, to the benefit of both our customer and our company. It’s a huge privilege to be part of it.