Following an options appraisal to decide on how to improve family support for under-5s, a Children’s Trust decided to move to an outcomes-based specification that was more focused on specific vulnerable young children and parents in the area.
In order to secure the most appropriate provision for this service, the Trust decided to run a half-day workshop with key senior decision makers, frontline staff and providers. Two options were developed:
- merging the current generic family support services into the specification of the children’s centre, or
- commissioning a new provider to provide a wider range of services.
The existing provider – a small third sector organisation providing family support – was closely involved in the development of these options.
The Trust decided to decommission the current service and commission a new service based in the children’s centre, which led to the re-tendering of the children’s centre contract. The existing provider and other local providers were given advanced notice of this decision and given plenty of time to respond to the tender. The local third sector organisations (TSOs), in light of the new specification, decided to form a consortium to provide the service, making it more likely that both the existing provider, and other local providers, will benefit from the new service.
In addition to consulting the organisations, and providing them with sufficient time to respond to the new specification, the Trust also directed the providers to guidance on setting up consortia and partnership working. The local authority also recommended they get legal advice early on about any Transfer of Undertakings (TUPE) issues if the new partnership were successful in winning the bid. The third sector organisations (TSOs) were all invited to a meeting of the Children’s Trust Board to ensure they felt fully involved in the process and understood the governance arrangements for the decommissioning.
Even though the existing service was decommissioned, no complaints were received from parents or families by either the providers or the commissioners.
The TSOs involved felt it had been a fair and inclusive process, with a range of providers benefiting from the new arrangement.