Agenda and minutes

Select Committee - Commissioning
Thursday, 30th January, 2014 10.00 am

Venue: Wantsum Room, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone. View directions

Contact: Denise Fitch  01622 694269

No. Item


Peter Heckel, Director, Project Salus pdf icon PDF 14 KB

Additional documents:


(1)       Mr N J D Chard informed the Select Committee that his son received support from the KCC Disability Team.  This was not an Other Significant Interest, and he was therefore able to participate fully in the consideration of this item.


(2)       Mr Heckel introduced himself as the Director of Project Salus (Latin for “Wellbeing”). This had previously been part of KCC under the heading “Kent Safe Schools (KSS).”  In 2011 his proposal for KSS to become a social enterprise was accepted. KCC had provided Project Salus (as it was now known) with a three year grant and 23 staff TUPE transferred from KCC to Project Salus in June 2011.  


(3)       Project Salus had a turnover of £800k and it had lead responsibility for anti-bullying, drugs and alcohol education, restorative justice.  It received £1.2m from KCC to undertake work in Children’s Services, Justice, Youth Work (running youth clubs in Hythe and Maidstone) and Domestic Abuse. 


(4)       Questions - can you provide further details on the submission that “KCC and the services it commissions may benefit from a unified and corporate approach to commissioning?”


(5)       Project Salus has always been dealt with fairly and professionally by all commissioning directorates and units within KCC.  There are, however, marked differences in approach between them in other respects. For example, Children’s Services always provide TUPE information to all the bidders at the very start of the process.  Other teams, on the other hand, only provide this information after the contract had been won.  This usually leads to a renegotiation of the contract and can lead some contractors to withdraw altogether. 


(6)       Question - Can you explain what the barriers are to small organisations entering the market? 


(7)       KCC tends to split those services it wishes to outsource into Area lots, making it difficult for small providers to put in a bid.  The result tends to be the creation of consortia (which are by their nature difficult to quality assure) or that the risk is passed on to the provider who consequently needs to sub-contract. However, .when the Youth Service offer was broken down into 47 lots, smaller Youth organisations were able to participate and win contracts.


(8)       The answer lies in either reducing the area size of the lots that can be bid for or in making the criteria far more specific.  The overall current position is that small, local organisations are often effectively prevented from bidding because of the size of the contracts. Some contracts are for provision over half the county, so enormous amounts of work are needed to put a bid together.  Project Salus, for example, needed three staff to work fulltime for a week and a half preparing one bid.  Such a concentration of resources would have been completely beyond the smaller organisations’ capacity or would have been to the detriment of service provision.


(9)       Question – Can you tell us more about the “disappointment” discussed in the first paragraph of your submission?


(10)     Some of the KCC Teams  ...  view the full minutes text for item 1.


Interview with Carolyn McVittie, Managing Director, Stepahead Support pdf icon PDF 20 KB

Additional documents:


(1)       The Chairman thanked Ms McVittie for attending, and those around the table introduced themselves.  Ms McVittie responded to questions from the Select Committee.


Please tell us what you do and what your organisation does, in terms of commissioning.


(2)       I am the Managing Director of Stepahead, which has operated since 1999 to support children, young people and families.  Our work has changed a lot since 1999.  Our funding comes mostly from the County Council, a situation which has brought us some criticism, as we have put ‘all our eggs in one basket’, but there has always been a good relationship with the County Council as a funding partner.  I will highlight some of the key points of my written paper.


(3)       In the past, contracting has started with a discussion around a table, at which meeting partners have identified needs and discussed how these should be met, and we have been given some funding and asked to go away and deliver services.   This does not lead to sustainable contracts, however; we had yearly rolling contracts, which are not ideal. Sometimes we do not know what funding we will have until April.


(4)       Now there is the framework model, in which organisations can apply to go on a selected list to become potential future contractors. We welcome this model as it recognises quality and standards and builds a pool of quality organisations which can deliver services.  However, the process around the framework model is not how we had hoped it would be, and the timescales have slipped.  It also generates an awful lot of paperwork.  We had just undertaken a review of all our contracts, one by one, which for a small organisation was demanding in terms of time and energy. The eligibility criteria to go on the framework changed.  At first, people had to score 80% in the test questions to qualify to go on the framework, but then, after delay, this was reduced and people only needed to score 20% to get on. This led to more organisations - 127 - coming onto it, which devalued the process.  We had made much effort with our preparation work but other providers got in with less effort.  We had a good open relationship with the County Council commissioners and they were honest about not being sure about what services the Council wanted, moving forward. 


(5)       In the framework, we are able to tender for opportunities as they come up, and we expected opportunities to be presented gradually, but sometimes they come three at a time and we have to decide whether to spend time and effort preparing a really good quality tender for one of the three or to divide the time and effort preparing tenders for all three, which means that each one might not be such a good quality tender, (which is difficult to do, professionally, as have high standards) and we might miss getting a contract because of it. As a small organisation we didn’t have  ...  view the full minutes text for item 2.


Interview with Thom Wilson, Head of Strategic Commissioning (Children's Services, KCC) pdf icon PDF 30 KB


(1)       The Chairman thanked Mr Wilson for attending, and those around the table introduced themselves. Mr Wilson said he had been interested to hear the last part of the previous interview, and he commented on a point raised about change management.  He added his view that it is essential to have an exit strategy at the end of a period of family support, and that good handover is vital. 


(2)       He then responded to questions from the Select Committee.


Please tell us about your role.


(3)       I am the Head of Strategic Commissioning for Children’s Services, so I have a responsibility for children’s social care transformation, 0 – 11 integrated service transformation and commissioning.  In this role, I need to have a broad view across all these issues.


(4)       The key points I would highlight from the written paper which I submitted previously are the importance of pathways, understanding journeys, the limitations of a 12-week involvement in supporting a family tackling issues which can be ingrained over generations, and the importance of community support in addressing issues of social value.


(5)       Whereas, in adult social care, some 80% of spending on commissioning is with the external market, with 20% being in-house, in children’s services, this pattern is reversed, with only 20 – 25 % of the spend being with the external market. This emphasis on in-house provision means that greater emphasis of children’s commissioning is focused on the County Council’s own practices, influencing what happens internally as well as making best use of the market.


(6)       I have recently met some providers and heard their views on the frameworks we use to commission services.  My view is that these meetings are a positive step as they allow the County Council the opportunity to work proactively with the market. However, as we become more sophisticated at commissioning, the County Council will need to be more sophisticated in the way it runs and uses the framework, ensuring providers know what to expect and how the framework will be used.  For example, I recently met a national provider based in Kent that does very little work in Kent but a great deal elsewhere.  The County Council has not seemed to be proactive at telling companies like them that it has many contracts in which they may be interested. It needs to focus on improving its communication and be clearer at telling providers what it wants them to do. The Council needs to be better at communicating with providers.


(7)       There is a tendency among local authorities to see commissioning as a ‘them and us’ situation, but we need to realise and understand that we are all in the same business of seeking to support children and families. Relations between commissioner and provider can be tense, as shown by the reference to ‘Head Teacher and pupil’ relationship in the previous speaker’s written submission.  However, sometimes you can have too close a relationship between commissioner and provider.  We need to work closely but be able  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.