OPM suggest ways to allow local people to get involved in the commissioning decisions rather than ‘fighting back’ once the deal is apparently done.
LOCAL AUTHORITIES CAN INVOLVE USERS IN COMMISSIONING DECISIONS BY…
- Conducting widespread and detailed consultation and engagement at a sufficiently early stage to find out what users of the service in question think of it and how they feel it could be improved, using the findings from this to directly inform the performance criteria included in the specification against which providers are invited to bid.
- Treating the equalities impact assessment process – whereby likely impact on typically disenfranchised groups is systematically assessed and mitigated – as a genuine way of looking to improve the core service itself, rather than as a ‘tick box’ exercise. After all a very large proportion of service users will fall into one or more of the groups protected by equalities legislation.
- Including in the contract specification measures designed to get providers to spell out how they will involve service users on an ongoing basis, and meet the needs of people who are at risk of exclusion. As well as being a good thing in and of itself, this kind of approach to commissioning is likely to help authorities meet their statutory obligations under the Public Services (Social Value) Act.
- Involving service users directly in the bidding process. This is perfectly legal and completely practical. You might form a user steering group to act as a sounding board and source of oversight on an ongoing basis, or take the simple step of appointing a service user or someone from a user-led organization to sit on the panel that interviews shortlisted bidders.
- Taking a proactive approach to building the capacity of smaller providers (for example charities and SMEs) who may be closest to service users, but who may have less expertise and track record in bidding for large contracts. This might take the form of a suppliers forum with advice and guidance tailored to a range of likely providers, or one-to-one dialogue with organisations that have been identified as having the potential to really add value.
Full article is found on the OPM website at: http://www.opm.co.uk/user-voice-not-legal-challenge-how-to-build-engagement-into-the-commissioning-process/