Working to make government more effective


Making Public Service Markets Work: Professionalising government’s approach to commissioning and market stewardship

This report explores government’s design and oversight of public service markets in employment services (the Work Programme), secondary education, car

This report explores government’s design and oversight of public service markets in:

  • employment services (the Work Programme)
  • secondary education
  • care for older people
  • probation services.

It builds on previous Institute for Government research and is based on 85 interviews with those commissioning, delivering and advising on service provision in these areas; a review of existing evidence; and, a series of deliberative workshops and roundtables involving government officials, independent experts and private, public and voluntary sector providers of public services.

The report examines the underlying reasons for varying levels of effectiveness, identifies opportunities for improvement and provides recommendations for how the government can professionalise its approach to commissioning and overseeing public service markets.

We strongly urge the government to adopt more of a ‘stewardship’ role: closely monitoring the way in which these markets are developing and adjusting the rules and incentives providers face to steer the system towards delivering governments’ overall policy aims.

We also provide frameworks to help government think through when to use and how to design public service markets. And we provide advice on how government departments, local commissioners and regulators should structure themselves and operate to ensure public service markets deliver desired outcomes.

Related content

18 APR 2011 Report

System Stewardship

It argues that policy makers need to see themselves as stewards of systems with multiple actors and decision makers.

23 DEC 2010 Report

The State of Commissioning

Bold claims about payment by results mechanisms all depend on capacity for provision entering into new, uncertain, markets.

14 MAR 2012 Report

Testing New Commissioning Models

Testing new commissioning models offers many benefits: implementation can be investigated, contracts perfected, and mistakes minimised. Yet there is a

28 AUG 2012 Report

Commissioning for success

This publication examines the difficulties of ‘opening up’ public services through choice and competition and identifies some possible remedies.

14 NOV 2012 Report

Competition in prisons

This paper traces the history of competition in the prisons sector, assesses what we currently know about its impact and draws out some lessons for th

24 JAN 2013 Report

When to contract

This working paper identifies six questions that those introducing, adapting or overseeing contractual mechanisms in public services should ask to gai

11 DEC 2018 Report

Government procurement

One third of government’s spending is with contractors: last year, four departments spent more than half their budgets with external suppliers.