Short-term funding and council commissioners’ reluctance to use the voluntary sector continue to hamper the development of parenting support services, claims a new government-commissioned report.
In a follow-up to a study last August, consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers said many of its original conclusions still applied: that councils lacked knowledge of existing provision and service demand and that comprehensive commissioning strategies were not in place.
It said the short-term nature of funding, often tied to pilot schemes, created uncertainty for councils and providers, and meant the latter were unable to plan, spent too much time bidding for cash and were reluctant to invest in services or staff.
The study, based on interviews with nine commissioners and 22 providers across four local authority areas, found no increase in councils commissioning third-sector providers to deliver parental support.
It said voluntary and community groups felt councils were reluctant to commission them because of “an out-of-date” view of the sector’s capacity and skills and because authorities incorrectly deemed in-house services as more cost-effective.
Voluntary sector leaders endorsed many of the findings. Helen Dent, chief executive of the Family Welfare Association, said: “Councils may provide in-house [parenting support] services but they don’t take into account all of the costs.”
She cited management costs which were included in voluntary sector contracts but, she claimed, ignored by councils in costing their own services.
In October 2006, the DfES called for authorities to develop a parenting strategy. It said there needed to be a single commissioner of parenting services for each area and councils were given £7.5m from 2007-8 to develop the strategies to ensure they are in place by March 2008.
Contact the author