Agenda Item No


The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Cabinet Meeting: 16th November, 2011


Report of the Cabinet Member for Social and Care Services


Social Services Commissioning Framework 2011 and the Social Services Commissioning Strategy for Older people's Services 2011 to 2018


Purpose of the Report

1.             To ensure that Cabinet is aware of the response by social services to new statutory guidance and to secure Cabinet approval for the Social Services Commissioning Framework 2011 (attached at Annex A) and the Social Services Commissioning Strategy for Older People's Services 2011 to 2018 (attached at Annex B).


1.             That Cabinet notes this report.

2.             That Cabinet approves the Social Services Commissioning Framework 2011 and the Social Services Commissioning Strategy for Older People's Services 2011 to 2018.

3.             That Cabinet refers this report to the Corporate Resources and the Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committees for information.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To ensure that Cabinet considers the way in which the Social Services Directorate is responding to the increased responsibilities placed on the Council because of new statutory guidance.

2.             To ensure that commissioning arrangements for social care comply with the guidance.

3.             To ensure that the Scrutiny Committees are able to exercise effective oversight of this key area of activity.



2.             In January 2011, Cabinet received a report on the "Commissioning Framework and Good Practice guidance", issued by the Welsh Government.  The guidance sets out the responsibilities of local authorities in commissioning social services.

3.             The Framework has two parts.  Part 1 contains thirteen standards; these provide the benchmark against which the effectiveness of local authority commissioning activity will be measured. The standards focus on the capability needed to develop evidence-based commissioning plans and then to deliver them through effective procurement.  Additionally, the Framework clarifies the roles and responsibilities of those involved in the commissioning process.  Part 1 of the guidance was issued under Section 7(1) of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 under Section 7(1) of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970.  Part 2 of the Framework describes good practice in commissioning and procurement, outlining nine key challenges.

4.             Cabinet asked the Director of Social Services and the Director of Finance, ICT and Property to (i) evaluate how far current commissioning arrangements for social care in the Vale match the standards and meet the challenges set out in the statutory guidance; (ii) formulate appropriate actions within the new Change Plan for social services that would bring them into compliance with these mandatory requirements as soon as possible; and (iii) report further to Cabinet on conclusion of that exercise. 

5.             These tasks were undertaken as part of work done in formulating the Change Plan for Social Services 2011-2014; Cabinet endorsed the plan on 13th April 2011.  It deals primarily with those issues where a corporate approach, across Council directorates, is required to deliver appropriate action. The plan sets out the long-term strategy for social services with key actions, responsible officers for delivering those actions and timescales for completion. There is an agreed framework for monitoring and reporting progress.  Commissioning is one of the seven priority areas in the plan and an ambitious programme of work is under way.  It seeks to link together (in a business-oriented way) the Directorate's activities in the key areas of planning and partnerships, commissioning and contracting, and resource management

Relevant Issues and Options

6.             In recent years, commissioning has become established as an important process in helping to drive improvements in social care and in securing better outcomes for service users.  Successful implementation of the commissioning framework set out in the guidance does offer opportunities to demonstrate that we are responding to challenges about effective use of resources in a consistent and fair manner.  The outcome of the judicial review of Pembrokeshire County Council’s decision on care home fees ("the Forest Care Home case") demonstrates the risks of failing to meet the standards set.   Decisions about service commissioning and decommissioning have to be grounded in evidence and due process.  Difficult times mean that our plans come under even greater scrutiny.  We must be clear about:

·               the needs we are able to meet;

·               those we cannot meet, together with the possible consequences; and

·               the outcomes achieved.

7.             In this Council, there are examples of good planning and procurement practice across children's and adult services.  However, in common with all the other local authorities in Wales, much work is needed to ensure compliance with the new national standards and to meet the key commissioning challenges outlined in the guidance.  This is especially the case in areas that demand significant and dedicated capacity for service, market and resource analysis or contract monitoring.  We also recognise the need to increase our capacity for putting citizens at the centre of commissioning and procurement activity, through increased consultation and engagement.

8.             In a difficult financial context, this Council has rightly given priority to safeguarding core services for residents rather than to increasing capacity in areas such as commissioning.  It is work that requires a considerable level of expertise and, as relatively new discipline, the skills required are in short supply.  A key way forward must be to make greater progress with joint commissioning where expertise and capacity are shared across organisations.  The Vale has been in the forefront of pioneering initiatives for joint commissioning - with the NHS in commissioning substance misuse services and with nine other local authorities in commissioning independent sector placements for looked after children.  It has helped to establish important mechanisms for taking forward this work more systematically through the Integrating Health and Social Care Programme Board and the South East Wales Improvement Consortium.

9.             Despite limited capacity, the programme of work in respect of commissioning set out in the Change Plan is progressing well, with good support from all parts of the Council.  The two documents for which Cabinet approval is being sought represent significant milestones in bringing about improved commissioning practice.

10.        The Social Services Commissioning Framework 2011 describes the overall approach to commissioning that is being adopted, one that ensures we are able to fulfil our statutory responsibilities for the provision of social services and to shapes services that respond to the social care needs of residents.  It addresses the key questions: what is commissioning? why is commissioning important? what are the key issues in commissioning social care? what is best commissioning practice? what is the social care market? how can we commission to deliver new service models and efficiencies?

11.        The Social Services Commissioning Strategy for Older People's Services 2011 to 2018 identifies how the social care needs of older people will be met within the resources available to the Council during this period 2011 to 2018.  Producing the strategy has been used as an opportunity to further the Council’s overall programme for improving and modernising the social care services it provides for older people and their families.  A draft version of the document was shared with key stakeholders, including independent sector and third sector service providers.  The overall response was positive, welcoming especially the opportunities which the strategy provides for more informed dialogue with the Council.  There were some criticisms of a perceived diminution of the important role played by residential care in meeting current and future needs.  On the basis of the representations received, changes were made when finalising the version of the strategy presented with this report.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

12.        There are no direct financial implications of this report, although it should help ensure that the Council's assets are managed efficiently and effectively.  The Welsh Government has not made additional funding directly available to local authorities to assist in implementing the statutory guidance.  However, improved commissioning practices will help to ensure that the right services are available, for the right people at the right time and that best use is made of the resources available for social care services.  The documents make explicit the fact that the Council and its partners face an exceptionally difficult financial climate over the next few years, coupled with increasing demand for services.  In these circumstances, it is essential that commissioning strategies for social services establishes financially affordable models of assistance and support as well as contributing to the most appropriate ways of meeting the needs of vulnerable people.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

13.        Part 1 of the "Commissioning Framework and Good Practice guidance" is issued under Section 7(1) of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970 and it provides standards with which local authorities are expected to comply.  Commissioning practice should not place constraints on people's statutory rights to have their need for social care met by the services which the Council makes available under the relevant legislation. 

Crime and Disorder Implications

14.        There are no crime and disorder implications as a direct result of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

15.        Commissioning of care services has to ensure that they are accessible to all those eligible to receive them and will require Equalities Impact Assessments to be carried out where appropriate.

Corporate/Service Objectives

16.        The commissioning documents will contribute to the corporate priority of "working with partners to meet the diverse needs of our residents in ways that will safeguard and support those who are most vulnerable and in greatest need; help people to keep fit and healthy; and increase social cohesion and equality of opportunity for all."’

Policy Framework and Budget

17.        This is a matter for executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

18.        There are no implications for individual Wards as a direct result of this report.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

19.        Social Care and Health.

Background Papers

Cabinet Meeting on 19th January, 2011 - Commissioning Guidance

Cabinet Meeting on 13th April, 2011 - Social Services Change Plan 2011 - 2014


Contact Officer

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services


Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team


Responsible Officer:

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services