Agenda Item No


The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 16th July,



Report of the Director of Social Services


Contracts with Third Sector Organisations for Providing Social Care Services


Purpose of the Report

1.             To update Scrutiny Committee regarding arrangements for contracting with third sector providers of social care services in the Vale of Glamorgan.


1.             That Scrutiny Committee notes the current arrangements for contracting with third sector organisations.

2.             That a further report be submitted to Scrutiny Committee by the Director of Social Services in six months time.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1 & 2. To ensure effective scrutiny of a key function undertaken by the Council.



2.             The Council is a direct provider of social care services but it is also a commissioner of these services on a large scale from other organisations, primarily in the independent and third sectors.  Commissioning social care involves deciding what services are required to respond effectively to the needs of children, young people and adults - both now and in the future – and then making decisions about capacity, location, cost and quality of services, who will deliver them and how.  Commissioning social care services is a crucial activity for the Council as it helps to ensure that we are able to fulfil our statutory responsibilities and to shape the pattern of services available to residents.

3.             Social Services currently spend about £6.75m a year on services provided via contractual arrangements and service level agreements (excluding the spend on care home placements and domiciliary care packages). Of this spend, £5.172m is for adult services and £1.614m for children’s services. Adult services commission from twenty six organisations, of which twenty one are in the third sector. Children’s services commission from six organisations, all of which are in the third sector.  A list of the relevant organisations is attached at Appendix 1.

4.             In 2010, the Welsh Government provided statutory guidance on commissioning social services, setting out the responsibilities of local authorities in this area of work.  ‘The Commissioning Framework Guidance and Good Practice’ is issued under section 7(1) of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970.  It identifies thirteen standards towards which we should be working. These standards formed the basis of the actions set out in the commissioning section of the Social Services Change Plan 2011-2014.  This programme of work is progressing well, with good support from all parts of the Council.  In common with all the other local authorities in Wales, additional work is needed in the Vale of Glamorgan to ensure compliance with the 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.

5.             In this Council, there are examples of very good planning and procurement practice across children's and adult services.  However, social care commissioning is still a relatively new discipline.  To help staff with the complex activities involved, the Council produced its Social Services Commissioning Framework 2011.  The document is attached at Appendix 2; it has a key role in helping to drive improvements in social care and in securing better outcomes for service users. The Framework addresses a number of 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 the new service models and efficiencies?

6.             It is important too that the Social Services Directorate maintains an appropriate contractual relationship with all service providers.  This means ensuring compliance in areas such as adherence to regulatory standards, monitoring the level of services provided, financial probity, etc.  As a result of the constraints being imposed on local authority budgets, it is imperative that services being funded meet the changing service needs of our clients. Services also need to prove that they deliver value for money by providing efficient and effective services.

7.             Providing social care services through contracts with third sector providers can represent especially good value for the Council and for service users.  For example, these organisations often can:

  • get access to funds not available to local authorities;
  • through use of volunteers, supplement the finance made available by the Council;
  • increase social capital and empowerment by engaging service users and carers in running projects; and
  • innovate quickly in response to messages from service users about what works.

Relevant Issues and Options

8.             The production of commissioning strategies for different groups of service users forms the basis of the Welsh Government guidance.  These strategies outline the local authority’s priorities and intentions for future commissioning of services, based on service user needs and demographic changes over a period of time.  The ‘Social Services Commissioning Framework’ provides a uniform approach to the task of producing commissioning strategies, a major component of the actions set out in the Change Plan.

9.             To support the production of specific commissioning strategies for the different areas within Social Services and to monitor delivery of the services specified in contracts, staff from the Directorate have in place a programme of regular engagement sessions with the relevant organisations, including an annual review.   

10.        Each third sector project has a nominated operational manager from Social Services with responsibility for maintaining a dialogue with the service provider about the shape of services and plans for change.  This helps to ensure that decisions are made on the basis of information about the needs of service users and carers.  Every six months, officers from the commissioning unit and the relevant operational manager meet with representatives from the third sector organisation to ensure that the services are providing appropriate care and support and represent value for money.  These Service Development meetings give an opportunity for discussions on areas that could be improved, changes that could be made and priorities for future service delivery.  All the organisations have worked positively with the Directorate and they have been properly mindful of the situation the Council faces in respect of constraints on budgets.  Through this process of engagement, work has been completed with the providers to identify the efficiencies required.

11.        The Council’s Social Services Commissioning Strategy for Older People’s Services 2011 to 2018 was approved in November 2011.  It is attached at Appendix 3.  On the basis of a comprehensive analysis of need and consultation with key stakeholder, the strategy identifies how the social care needs of older people will be met within resources available to the Council over a seven-year period.  Producing the Strategy was 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.  The strategy has helped to inform the dialogue with service providers from the third sector and the independent sector.  Development meetings will continue with these providers to help shape services in readiness for future procurement exercises.  Where discussions have identified that services are not a priority for the Council, early dialogue with providers will help to advise them of other ways to secure funding.

12.        A Learning Disability Commissioning Strategy is being drafted. As a result of the dialogue with providers, we plan to use a similar approach to the one used in Older People services. In accordance with the Change Plan, this will be rolled out subsequently to mental health, physical disabilities and children’s services. A key feature is to maintain constructive relationships with providers and to work collaboratively in helping to determine the overall pattern of services.

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

13.        In keeping with decisions about efficiency savings for the Directorate, efficiencies of 4% per year in the three years from 2011/2012 to 2013/2014 were required from the funding arrangements with the third sector. This has been achieved through dialogue, thereby reducing the impact on individual service users and their families.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

14.        All procurement and contractual work undertaken as part of commissioning social care services has to comply with the legal framework and with the corporate policies in place within the Council.

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

16.        There are no Equal Opportunity implications as a direct result of this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

17.        This area of work helps to ensure that:

·               meet the corporate outcome ‘diverse needs of local people are met through the provision of customer focused, accessible services and information’ and

·               ‘health inequalities are reduced and residents are able to access the necessary services, information and advice to improve their wellbeing and quality of life’.

Policy Framework and Budget

18.        This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

19.        There are no issues in this report relevant to specific wards only.

Background Papers



Contact Officer

Carys Lord, Head of Business Management and Innovation


Officers Consulted

Lance Carver, Head of Adult Services


Responsible Officer:

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services