Skip to navigation Skip to main content

Shifting the social care dial: collaboration with providers

Michael Kitts

As flagged in our recent blogpost there are nearly 300,000 people awaiting social care assessments, care and support, or reviews, an increase of 26% over the last three months. Simply providing (limited) additional funding won’t shift the dial. So, what could?

One aspect is improved working and collaboration with commissioned providers, as highlighted in a recent open letter to government. There are no easy answers, and these will vary by area. In this blogpost series we are examining the potential opportunities that still exist – here we look at the value that improving supplier relationships can unlock for reduced spending and improved outcomes.

One untapped benefit from the thousands of smaller owner/operator service providers is their ability to be innovative, agile and adaptive, all by comparison with traditional universal service delivery models. And, critically, to support operations that are commercially agile and viable.

Traditional procurement approaches are transactional. That may work for scale, but it does not optimise the individual solutions that can unlock value and secure better outcomes. Co-creation between commissioners and providers and, critically, drawing on consumer input – including what really matters to them – can have a massive impact on innovation, impact and value for money.

These traditional approaches also focus on inputs – hours of support provided, rather than what is achieved. Instead, providers must start with the end in mind and innovate to secure the hours they really need – avoid doing more of the same.

Most providers are very focused on supporting the vulnerable within our communities but to work at its best, you must agree the conditions that need to be in place, or a ‘conditions precedent’. This includes: collaboration and genuine understanding of providers, market management, co-creation and commissioning for outcomes rather than just input and activity and appropriate payment mechanisms and incentivisation.

Providers strongly consider that there are insufficient trusted relationships, communication and liaison by commissioning teams – this needs genuine engagement outside of the traditional procurement processes. By not understanding providers’ operating and commercial models, commissioners are less able to work with them in a way that is mutually beneficial. For example, providers are struggling to recruit or retain staff due to inadequate chargeable rates and insufficient focus on teams’ satisfaction and needs.

The best commissioning teams talk to providers – current or potential – and build meaningful and trusting partnerships. Councils are not responsible for the running of providers, but they do have the reach to help providers grow which then supports the councils themselves. For example, councils could offer support for capacity building, training and development, enabling providers to have an upskilled workforce, optimised operating arrangements and fully qualified in-house trainers. Collaboration and exploration is absolutely key.

IMPOWER has supported local authorities for years in the social care space. We have a passion for delivering sustainable impact that matters – especially for vulnerable people. Our EDGEWORK approach, enhanced by technology enabled care (TEC) and data science, all embedded within our Valuing Home programme, has enabled us to deliver significant impact in the Home First space. We recognise that change management is not a simple thing – but we are very focused on embracing that complexity to secure better outcomes that cost less.


Written by

Michael Kitts



Sign up for the latest thinking on delivering sustainable change and better public services

No spam; unsubscribe easily at any time. Learn more in our Privacy Policy.