Leadership, reduced bureaucracy and sharing risk are among the key ingredients to successful commissioning, according to a report published jointly by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) and the Care Provider Alliance (CPA).

The paper, ‘Finding Common Purpose, developing strategic commissioning relationships to support people with learning disabilities’, is based on a recent workshop held by the two organisations and outlines the challenges – and potential solutions – to productive strategic commissioning. It is an important insight into issues either side of the commissioning fence; workshop participants included not only social care provider chief executives, but also senior local authority commissioners.

As explained in the report, it is not too late to design and adopt an approach to commissioning which safeguards the best of current approaches and avoids the “short-term, adversarial relationships that can harm valuable services – and the people who depend on them”. The ADASS and CPA paper suggests the ways forward.

Problems described by providers and commissioners in the report include:

  • leadership and capacity – providers believe directors of adult services can encourage better market relationships, but commissioners worry about their own lack of commissioning capacity and specialised knowledge
  • procurement – providers complain about bureaucracy and cost to get onto a framework agreement – while commissioners argue framework agreements rationalise the number of providers
  • trust – providers say council budget cuts create inconsistency in commissioning and increase central procurement directorates but councils suggest providers fail to appreciate both the financial pressures they face the role of elected councillors

Included in the report are recommendations to encourage stronger commissioning:

  • to improve procurement to incentivise providers to come up with innovative models and reduce the cost of framework agreements
  • to build trust and understanding between commissioners and providers
  • showcase good practice and develop robust market position statements
  • on the issue of sharing risk, use effective dialogue to focus on the outcomes sought rather than process

The report also suggests a number of specific recommendations for stakeholders.

Download ‘Finding Common Purpose, developing strategic commissioning relationships to support people with learning disabilities’