The Government is working to improve commissioning to get the best possible services that deliver value for money. Previously, the then Office of the Third Sector outlined eight principles of good commissioning. If embedded, these could yield efficiency gains and community benefits, through smarter, more effective and innovative commissioning, and optimal involvement of third sector organisations in public service design, improvement, delivery and holding the public sector to account. This should result in better public outcomes for individuals and communities.
The eight principles of good commissioning are:
- Understanding the needs of users and other communities by ensuring that, alongside other consultees, you engage with the third sector organisations, as advocates, to access their specialist knowledge;
- Consulting potential provider organisations, including those from the third sector and local experts, well in advance of commissioning new services, working with them to set priority outcomes for that service;
- Putting outcomes for users at the heart of the strategic planning process;
- Mapping the fullest practical range of providers with a view to understanding the contribution they could make to delivering those outcomes;
- Considering investing in the capacity of the provider base, particularly those working with hard-to-reach groups;
- Ensuring contracting processes are transparent and fair, facilitating the involvement of the broadest range of suppliers, including considering sub-contracting and consortia building, where appropriate;
- Ensuring long-term contracts and risk sharing, wherever appropriate, as ways of achieving efficiency and effectiveness; and
- Seeking feedback from service users, communities and providers in order to review the effectiveness of the commissioning process in meeting local needs.
The principles do not mention grant making but neither do they preclude it. Where it would provide better value for money (for example, where it is a more economic process, or a more effective approach to the achievement of outcomes) then it remains an appropriate way to source services and meet users’ needs.