How to commission for a diverse range of providers

A guest blog from Simon Taylor (, who supports our micro-enterprise members:

When the Care Bill becomes law, commissioners will have a duty to promote a range of services that meet local people’s needs. This won’t be easy with tightening budgets and the drive to commission services ‘efficiently’, which many areas have seen in terms of having fewer contracts to manage. In addition, councils will have duties to support the development of preventative services and to help individuals to use Direct Payments and personal budgets to purchase support which is of their choosing.

Shared Lives Plus, supported by the Department of Health and endorsed by sector partnership Think Local Act Personal, has produced “Commissioning for Provider Diversity – A Guide”, which will help councils commission in a way which gets better value for money through having a wide range of local services, not just a few large contracts.

The report draws on the voices of the smallest of providers who deliver services at the ‘micro’ scale and on the work of our sister organisation, Community Catalysts, which supports local authorities to create the conditions in which micro as well as larger providers can thrive. The report explains the principles and then sets out the practical steps for commissioners to take, including identifying the met and unmet needs of personal budget holders and enabling citizens to have a say at every stage.

From our membership, we hear stories such as that of the micro-enterprise, working with people with learning disabilities to help them to live independently and find work, whose survival is threatened by their local authority’s insistence on framework contract arrangements. Another authority aske a micro-provider, with limited financial resources, to install unnecessary monitoring equipment costing thousands of pounds in order to continue to deliver a service which had been working effectively.

Other authorities are including micro-enterprises in their Making it Real personalisation action plans, publicising the benefits of micro-provision to the wider public at local events and implementing a simple accreditation process developed by Community Catalysts.

The steps set out in this very brief guide are highly achievable, often cost-neutral and have been implemented successfully in areas already. We hope that councils will use this guide to build the kind of diverse provision which has always been needed and which is set to become non-negotiable.

The guide can be found at:

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