Digital Training and Support buyers' guide

How to buy assisted digital and digital inclusion services through the Digital Training and Support framework.

Use the Digital Training and Support framework to find ‘assisted digital’ and ‘digital inclusion’ services. Frameworks are agreements between government and suppliers. Buying services on frameworks is faster and cheaper than entering into individual contracts with suppliers.

Assisted digital

If you’re building a digital service in a central government department, you must provide assisted digital support. This means offering help for people who:

  • need to use the digital service but can’t access it
  • don’t have the skills to use the digital service on their own

Digital inclusion

You can also provide digital inclusion training or support through the Digital Training and Support framework.

Digital inclusion is about giving people:

  • access to the internet
  • the skills to use the internet
  • an understanding of what the internet can offer
  • the knowledge to use the internet safely

Read the digital inclusion blog.

What you can buy

There are over 50 suppliers on the framework. You can buy services through 5 categories or ‘lots’:

  • assisted digital support (lot 1)
  • digital inclusion research and analysis (lot 2)
  • digital inclusion training course, product or service design (lot 3)
  • digital inclusion training course, product or service delivery (lot 4)
  • digital inclusion marketing (lot 5)

You can buy services from more than one lot at a time.

If your organisation has a procurement team, check with them if the Digital Training and Support framework is the right framework for your needs. Other frameworks may be more suitable, for example the Front Office Counter Services framework for central government services. You can also email the Government Digital Service for advice.

Public sector organisations, including agencies and arm’s length bodies can use the framework. Check the customer unique reference number (URN) list to see if you’re eligible.

Assisted digital support (lot 1)

You can buy assisted digital support to help make sure your service:

Buying assisted digital support early can help you understand and resolve any problems users may have before a service assessment.

Digital inclusion research and analysis (lot 2)

You can buy digital inclusion research and analysis to help you:

  • do research that checks user needs are properly addressed by your digital inclusion strategy or policy
  • do ‘evaluation research’ that checks how digital programmes or services are created and how good they are
  • collect and analyse data on digital inclusion including qualitative data, quantitative data, and user insights
  • report and present findings on your digital inclusion strategy
  • create a plan to improve the digital inclusion of specific users or communities

Digital inclusion training course, product or service design (lot 3)

This will help you design a:

  • digital inclusion training course, product or service
  • proposal to evaluate a course, product or service
  • training plan

Digital inclusion training course, product or service delivery (lot 4)

This will help you:

  • provide training courses that teach users to complete a specific digital task
  • provide qualifications in a basic digital skill
  • monitor and evaluate training courses
  • create and maintain training courses websites or networks
  • manage staff or volunteers who provide training
  • get feedback from staff, volunteers or users on how courses, products or services meet user needs
  • analyse feedback to improve training and related products
  • create, improve or maintain customised courses, products or services
  • work with local suppliers to run courses across the UK
  • meet evaluation and reporting requirements for courses

Digital inclusion marketing (lot 5)

You can buy digital inclusion marketing, including:

  • campaigns about basic digital skills
  • training opportunities and marketing
  • public relations activities, like publishing case studies about people who have benefitted from getting online

How to buy

When you buy services through this framework, you must:

  1. Prepare your requirements.
  2. Set evaluation criteria.
  3. Get budget approval.
  4. Send your requirements to suppliers.
  5. Evaluate supplier applications and choose the winning supplier.
  6. Award the contract to the supplier.

The buying process has to be fair, open and transparent. Keep records so you have a clear audit trail, including any questions you’ve answered and any evaluation you’ve made.

1. Prepare your requirements

Working with procurement and technical professionals can help you decide on the high-level requirements of your project and how long the project will last.

You should consider:

  • the funds you have to buy the service
  • the needs of your users
  • the features you need the service to have
  • any training suppliers will need
  • if suppliers understand their responsibilities to vulnerable user groups (for example, to protect users’ data)
  • any technical requirements of the project
  • the size and length of the project
  • the stage the project is at

You’ll need to use these requirements to help you write your business case and get budget approval.

To help you refine your requirements, you can talk to suppliers before you start. This is called ‘early market engagement’ or ‘pre-tender market engagement’.

GDS can provide a list of suppliers on the framework. You can email suppliers or invite them to an event. You must email or invite all approved suppliers on the relevant lot.

2. Set evaluation criteria

If you’re spending £25,000 or more, you need to set evaluation criteria to help you find the supplier that best meets your needs.

You must use a combination of technical and price criteria when you evaluate supplier applications.

Technical criteria can include how suppliers show:

  • expertise in assisted digital or digital inclusion services
  • experience of delivering services
  • they have a delivery plan
  • they can meet deadlines
  • they have the people to do the work
  • they’ll make subcontractor arrangements
  • their service level agreements (SLAs) are acceptable
  • they’ll provide management reports and key performance indicators

Price criteria include:

  • the price suppliers will charge for the service
  • how suppliers want to be paid, for example, fixed price, ‘time and materials’, price per transaction, or price per hour, day or week

Technical criteria must total 60% of all evaluation criteria and price criteria must total 40%. There’s no restriction on the number of technical criteria. Use the ones that make sense for what you’re buying.

3. Get budget approval

You must get budget approval before you start the buying process.

If you’re buying for central government, you must go through the digital and IT spend control process.

If you’re buying for a public sector organisation outside of central government, you may need to get internal approval first.

You can buy directly from a supplier for services up to £25,000.

You need quotes from at least 3 suppliers for services between £25,000 and £50,000.

You must run a ‘mini-competition’ for services over £50,000.

4. Send your requirements to suppliers

Email GDS for the list of suppliers and then send your requirements to the suppliers who provide services:

If a supplier is not on the framework but you know they can meet your requirements, they may be able to subcontract for a supplier who is on the framework. You or GDS can give that supplier the contact details of other suppliers in the relevant lot.


If you’re planning to spend over £50,000, you must ask for quotes from all the suppliers on the relevant lot. This is called a ‘mini-competition’.

Mini-competitions can take a long time but they keep the buying process fair, open and transparent. After preparing your requirements and evaluation criteria you need to follow these steps.

Email all suppliers at the same time with:

  • instructions on how to respond
  • your requirements
  • a pricing document that suppliers add their quotes to
  • the call-off contract

Give suppliers 2 to 6 weeks to respond depending on how complex your requirements are.

Answer any questions suppliers have about your requirements. If a supplier contacts you, respond to all other suppliers as well, so everyone gets the same information at the same time. For complex or high-value projects, hosting a question and answer event can be simpler.

You must:

  • be clear about what the event is for
  • say whether the event will be a webinar, conference call or meeting
  • invite all suppliers

If you need to, meet suppliers to gather more information or answer their questions. Share your answers with all suppliers.

Sharing information

Before you share information a supplier provides in a mini-competition with other teams or departments who are buying similar services:

  • ask your procurement team if the information is commercially sensitive
  • get the supplier’s approval

5. Evaluate suppliers

Use the technical and price criteria you defined earlier to evaluate suppliers’ responses. Calculate your overall score for each supplier by weighting the:

  • technical criteria at 60%
  • price criteria at 40%

Before evaluating, check with GDS that the price isn’t too high.

What suppliers can charge

There are limits on what suppliers can charge you. Email GDS to check if the rates suppliers have quoted are acceptable. You can’t award a contract to a supplier if their rate is higher than the one they provided when they joined the framework.

Depending on the service they’re providing, suppliers’ rates can be:

  • fixed price
  • ‘time and materials’
  • per transaction
  • per hour, day or week

When you award a contract, the supplier’s rate is capped for the length of the contract.

A supplier can’t increase their rate if they win a mini-competition. They must use the rate they provided when you invited them to apply.

Rate limits for assisted digital support (lot 1)

Suppliers can charge you for the time their staff support your digital service. It must be an hourly charge. It can include extra costs.

Rate limits for digital inclusion research and analysis (lot 2)

Depending on who does the digital inclusion research and analysis, suppliers’ rates can’t exceed those for a:

  • project sponsor or director
  • research manager
  • senior researcher
  • junior researcher or administrator

Rate limits for digital inclusion training course, product or service design (lot 3)

Depending on who designs the digital inclusion course, product or service, suppliers’ rates can’t exceed those for a:

  • project manager
  • user researcher or analyst
  • designer
  • administrator

Rate limits for digital inclusion training course, product or service delivery (lot 4)

Suppliers can charge you:

  • hourly, including extra costs
  • a fixed price for a training programme depending on how long it lasts

For training programmes, there’s a maximum rate for 5-day, 10-day and 6-week programmes. The rates assume each course in a programme runs from 9am to 5pm.

Depending on who delivers the course, suppliers’ rates can’t exceed those for a:

  • senior manager
  • account manager
  • senior administrator
  • junior administrator
  • senior trainer
  • junior trainer
  • manager

Rate limits for digital inclusion marketing (lot 5)

Suppliers must charge a fixed price for producing marketing communications, campaigns and promotional material. They can also include staff costs for either marketing, campaigns or communication and certain extra costs.

Extra costs

Suppliers can charge for extra costs they need to pay while they’re providing:

  • assisted digital support
  • a digital inclusion training course, product or service delivery
  • digital inclusion marketing

These include costs for:

  • accommodation
  • fixtures and fittings
  • maintenance
  • utilities
  • office equipment, including IT systems
  • postage, printing and telecommunications
  • employing, training or recruiting staff
  • overheads like payroll costs, auditing, costs for legal services or managing subcontractors
  • capital charges
  • insurance quotes or premiums
  • subcontractor fees
  • distribution costs including transport costs

When you get responses from suppliers, check that:

  • it’s clear which payment approach they use
  • any extra costs are reasonable
  • they can be compared with other suppliers’ prices and rates so you’ll be able to evaluate them all easily
  • you know how often suppliers want to be paid (monthly, quarterly or annually)
  • the rates are acceptable

6. Award the contract

When you’ve evaluated all supplier applications, tell the winning supplier you’ll award them the call-off contract. This is an agreement between you and the supplier describing how the service will be delivered.

Email when you’ve awarded a contract. Awarded contracts worth £10,000 or more must be published on Contracts Finder.

You must also tell all other suppliers your decision. Suppliers need to know why they weren’t successful so they can plan for other work and improve any future applications they make. Notify all unsuccessful suppliers by email at the same time.

You and the winning supplier must sign the call-off contract. Make sure you both:

  • understand and agree what the contract covers
  • agree how and when you’ll pay the supplier
  • know what to do if you disagree about the work
  • know how to change or end the contract

You can extend a contract by including an extension clause in your call-off contract.

If your requirements change so they’re no longer covered by the original scope of the contract, you must cancel the contract and start the buying process again.

Keep records

To show you’ve bought in a fair, open and transparent way, you must keep a record of:

  • your requirements
  • any contact with suppliers during early market engagement
  • all types of communications with suppliers, for example emails or webinars
  • how you score suppliers against the evaluation criteria
  • who you exclude and why
  • feedback you give to successful and unsuccessful suppliers after you’ve evaluated them
  • all decisions you make with supporting evidence
  • the signed call-off contract

Suppliers will send information about how much you’ve spent on their services to GDS. This will help the government track how much it’s spending. You don’t need to provide any spending information.


Email to get help from GDS.

GDS can advise you on:

  • your responsibilities
  • how and when to contact suppliers
  • what to do if your requirements change
  • supplier rates
  • the details of the call-off contract
Published 18 July 2017