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(1) The Chairman welcomed Angela Slaven to the meeting.
(2) Angela Slaven gave an overview of her role and responsibility for commissioning which she explained spanned 20 years. She advised that she had worked across statutory services and provider agencies. She explained that her experience was predominantly in the provision of services that required demonstrable outcomes that improved the lives of people in communities – drug and alcohol treatment services, supporting people, housing related support services, services to prevent offending or re-offending by young people, employment training and skills provision, youth services and services that support community safety initiatives including domestic abuse and work with adult offenders.
(3) Angela explained that commissioning was the process through which the need for service was assessed, shaped and designed based upon a needs analysis – defined by the needs of the service user group; the required outcomes and available budget. She went on to explain that procurement was the process through which appropriate services are achieved – the tendering and awarding of contracts and the legal process of commissioning. Angela concluded her statement by flagging up service user input at both the provider and the governance level for example they are represented at and are part of the Drug and Alcohol Board
QUESTION - How does the voluntary sector achieve what we at KCC are looking for in the local community - for example a lady that had voluntarily run a local youth club for 30 years is now expected to take on additional business-like responsibilities - managing the accounts and keys to the premises etc? How do you feel the voluntary sector is dealt with?
(4) Angela responded that KCC describes the voluntary sector as an a homogenous group and they aren’t! Competitiveness comes into play and organisations can begin to focus on perpetuating themselves ‘existence above all else’ with a real risk they lose sight of their outcomes. She explained that commissioning is always achieved more successfully when an agreement focuses on service user and outcomes.
(5) Small organisations are always going to struggle as KCC is too bureaucratic – we need to streamline and simplify. It is always necessary to demonstrate how the Council’s money is spent responsibly but need to make our routes for accountability / delivery / demonstrability as simple as possible with a strong focus on building relationships with the sectors we commission from. on out. Procurement should simplify things further for the commissioning and contracting of services provision of services but in some circumstances grant funding is still appropriate.
QUESTION - When we commission a service – how do we monitor? How do we put right when things go wrong? Is there a facility within the contract if there are concerns?
(6) Angela replied by advising that when she had arrived at KCC seven years Kent Probation Service was not hitting the mark – no VFM, no performance values, no need analysis. KCC was performing in the bottom of the national league table and the Home ... view the full minutes text for item 7.
(1) The Chairman of the Select Committee welcomed Nigel (Nigel) and Andy (Andy) to the meeting and asked Members in attendance to introduce themselves.
(2) Nigel, and Andy, had received questions and themes that the Select Committee were investigating in preparation for the meeting. A copy of their response was included in the papers and considered by the Select Committee.
(3) Nigel began by explaining the Youth Service Transformation Model. He advised that a meeting was held with Customer and Communities senior management team, approximately 4 years ago, to discuss how to evolve the delivery of Youth Services over the forthcoming years. The discussions were not financially led, but how to be more effective, how to deliver a more appropriate service that meets the needs of young people, what is our relationship with the voluntary sector - especially with the number of grants which tended to have a lack of appropriate monitoring. The discussions and subsequent thinking evolved into a commissioning model, where KCC would keep a core number of services and commission private and voluntary sector organisations to compliment that core. It was clear that the commissioning model should be attractive to organisations of different sizes as the voluntary youth sector is a diverse market.
(4) The outline of the proposed model was discussed extensively with the Cabinet Member and the Corporate Board. The model included; having smaller directly delivered services (the same in each district with building, street and school based elements), community wide, from a range voluntary sector provision, which would compliment the model already operating and would increase the likelihood of smaller organisations bidding for contracts. .
(5) Locality Boards were consulted on the process and all were signed up to the modelling. [This process was taking place during the development of the Locality Boards]. The Leader of the County Council directed the sign up of the Locality Boards to this model.
(6) Nigel explained that it took time to get “sign up” to the model by Members on the newly established Locality Boards, which were not set up in all areas of the county. Initially, Boards were consulted on the model, and subsequently were asked to contribute to the detailed provision in each area. There were advantages and disadvantages to the process – it was extremely time consuming, but there was a lot of “buy in” from county and district members/officers.
(7) The County Council approved the model and the holistic model was launched in January 2013. The successful 22 providers were local Kent based organisations with one exception) ranging from small to countywide voluntary organisations delivering lots across the county.
(8) The voluntary and community sector were provided with ongoing support which included training in the commissioning process.
(9) Andy explained that the Service were using a Dynamic Purchasing Model which allowed new providers to join during the contractual period of the framework. With traditional Frameworks, an organisation either got on or they did not at the start. This model allowed flexibility allowing ... view the full minutes text for item 8.
(1) The Chairman welcomed Mr Martin to the meeting and asked him to introduce himself before answering questions from Members of the Committee.
(2) Mr Martin said he was attending the meeting in two capacities – as CEO of KentCan which had linked policy makers, commissioners and decision makers with 2,500 voluntary sector organisations until it ceased operating on 31 January 2014 and as Director of CAP Enterprise which provided business support to social enterprises.
(3) Mr Martin referred to the paper that had been circulated with the agenda for the meeting which was based on over ten years of experience. He said the voluntary and social sector was very diverse and all bar the very largest faced some risk from the change to a commissioning based environment. Reliance on grants should diminish as organisations increase, but the opposite is occurring.
(4) Mr Martin said it was essential to bring commissioners and frontline organisations closer together and in particular to develop and use a single independent point of access. He also said those commissioning services within KCC had to increase the amount of communication to enable frontline organisations to engage. There was also need to develop a framework to enable commissioners to understand the social impact of frontline services.
(5) Mr Martin said the development of consortia was not common and often when large national organisations facilitated the establishment of consortia smaller frontline organisations were used as “bid candy”. In addition the large organisations often creamed off the most profitable work and passed work with hard to reach groups to smaller voluntary organisations which in turn put the most vulnerable at increased risk.
(6) Mr Martin said an influx of commercial minds was needed on many boards of trustees. Many boards were risk averse and lacked the skill sets to undertake more commercial activities. He also said that most organisations in the sector did not have access to resources that would facilitate business development and found the process for the submission of tenders too onerous and time-consuming. For example, it had taken him over a week to prepare a tender for a two-year contract worth £50,000. Many organisations did not have this capacity and would be unable to compete.
(7) Mr Martin said the linkages within the sector were relatively weak and there was evidence of partnerships fragmenting, silos building, and organisations becoming isolated when should be working together. Infrastructure organisations tended to invest insufficient time to developing sector-led consortia possibly because to survive many were also delivering frontline services and competing against their peers. He also said that many board members had been in post for more than 20 years and in some cases moral and emotional fatigue had set in. He referred to an investment of £150K made by Suffolk County Council in 2011 to enable third sector organisations to develop their ability to secure public sector contracts.
(8) Mr Martin said it was a myth that third sector organisations could automatically access match funding or that there ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
Wrap up/key points
This Select Committee may wish to feed into the Compact group.
There is not a clear mechanism to amend and improve contracts as they near completion.
There is a lack of trust between providers and commissioners.
There needs to be a mechanism to review what is commissioned and to identify and deal with any issues at an early stage in the process.
Have heard about difficulty pulling performance back on track. There is no clear mechanism.
The voluntary sector is unable or unwilling to bid for tenders but wants to and is well able to deliver frontline services. It would be terrible to lose the voluntary sector just because they lack the capacity to bid for tenders.
The job descriptions and person specifications for those commissioning services need to be overhauled to include relationship building. They need to help the voluntary sector organisations doing the work on the ground to get contracts.