The Care Market

Really interesting report last week called ‘Making Public Services Markets Work’, by the Institute for Government, Well I say interesting if you are interested in this sort of thing!

Effectively the Institute is calling for better commissioning and contract management skills in central and local government to prevent loss of confidence in outsourcing.

This comes at the same time as Doncaster Council is losing it’s children services to a mutual trust and Justice Secretary of State Chris Grayling expresses his “astonishment” that GS4 and Serco have been overcharged for tagging and monitoring thousands of offenders, making millions in the process.

The Doncaster issue is really interesting with many Council commentators aghast at Governments decision to remove a service from a Council, to the world of mutuals commenting on the challenge ahead, beyond a truly failing service that seems to have resisted all attempts thus far to make significant improvements enforced mutualisation is a new and unchartered set of waters and it will be interesting to see how this goes.

There is no doubt that most councils have moved away from the old model of state provided services and now look to mutuals of their own staff and private providers, both large and small to delivery services and frankly cost savings. Suffolk is leading the way on this, well certainly in the department I was previously responsible for ACS and we have and continue to put a significant amount of work in the commissioning and contract arrangements going forward, so you can imagine I read everything and anything expressing the pros and cons of changing the nature of a Council form service provider to commissioner of services and given the sheer scale of that commissioning, which is some areas such as the provision of residential care can be up to 50% of the entirely local number of beds, the key market shaper in any system.

I firmly believe that the most cost effective way for a Council to provide services to commission the provision letting others get Mrs. Smith out of bed in the morning and as vitally important as that is, commission that service from a others and concentrate on the really difficult bit of market shaping and capacity building. There is Suffolk we are doing just that making sure we also involve and capacity-build in each community through our Adult Care ‘Supporting People, Connecting Communities’, a programme I am keen to see become the mantra in other areas of the councils activity but manifests itself in things like the One Haverhill initiative and to some extent in the Community budgeting and our place work, albeit in sets of national initiatives, in my opinion, need to put community capacity or lack of more at the heart of the matter rather than just as another willing partner, but hey that’s a subject for a different blog.

The report has a whole section devoted to Social care which I read with great interest and it makes some interesting points about budgets and rates being paid.

However I have to say in some aspects the report sort of took the providers line a bit too much at face value. In my experience and I have sat over the past few years with many providers to be told a similar story about how difficult is it to do business with local gov based on the rates we pay, Yet they seem obvious to the facts that we see their accounts and some very healthy bottom lines, not all but certainly true in some cases. Of course it’s about balance and a part of the is that we as Councillors and the organisation as commissioners are charged with being the holders of the public purse and beyond the rural issues, beyond the skills issue, and beyond the cost to the private market an tis role in the price we negotiate, local authorities must not waste Council Tax payers hard-earned money.

To my mind it’s important that the local authority business is to both residential and domiciliary providers the bed rock on which they base their cash flow and from that flows their ability to business with private payers completing in a true market place, where customers and their families can pick and chose where they wish to be supported.

There is no doubt that the market must be paid a viable and sustainable rate for services to be provided but surely a part of quality commissioning is to get that price point right for Council Tax payer hard earned money as well!

About askcolinnoble
I'm a Conservative politician-lite, I dabble a bit in Party Politics with my main focus of working hard and being a strong voice for my community making sure local government delivers quality services and fellow residents get value for money for their hard earned money they pay in Council tax | Where this Gravatar appears and I am expressing my views or liking something I do so in a personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Suffolk County Council, Forest Heath District Council, the Conservative Party or come to think of it anyone else | But having said the above at an election time and to stay legal anything I write is promoted by Lance Stanbury on behalf of Colin Noble, both at West Suffolk Conservative Association, Unit 8, Swan Lane Business Park, Exning, Newmarket, Suffolk CB8 7FN

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