Successive governments’ policies have recognised that third sector organisations (TSOs) have an important role to play in the drive to improve public service delivery. However, there continues to be a lack of understanding among some commissioners about both the role played by TSO in providing services and their contribution to outcomes for users.
Some commissioning organisations have long-standing and fruitful relationships with TSOs but others need to develop better relationships. Providers can be an invaluable source of intelligence which should inform decision making, particularly where providers involve service users or where service users are drawn from ‘hard to reach’ communities.
There is also a need for a better understanding of the provider market, which goes beyond basic notions of stocks and flows, to include an understanding of the interrelationships and dependencies that exist between service providers. A deeper understanding of the complex and diffuse markets which exist locally will enhance understanding of how to approach decommissioning and its potential impacts.