Excessive adherence to European procurement rules, which are accused of swamping small-scale care providers with bureaucracy, is to be targeted in a new drive.
Guidance is set to be issued by the National Market Development Forum in an attempt to encourage councils to ease processes intended to encourage fair competition in the tendering of contracts.
A paper prepared for the forum, which brings together providers, councils and third sector organisations, said tendering processes could take 18 months to complete from the identification of a service need to the issuing of a contract.
The paper, presented at the National Children and Adult Services Conference, warned: “social care tendering practice does not sufficiently recognise the high cost of preparing and presenting bids in tendering and re-tendering exercises.”
Tendering rules are set out across a range of EU treaties and national legislation or guidance.
Forum member Jeff Jerome, the national director for social care transformation, said: “Providers were hacked off with the approaches different local authorities have about procurement with different interpretations of European rules.
“We know a lot of councils are looking at a very centralised procurement process, rather than a social care procurement process, and that may not be very helpful in terms of where we want to go.”
Speaking to Community Care later, Jerome said of compliance with the regulations: “We want a legal view of what’s the minimum that you have to do.”
He also warned of a “skills shortage” in terms of councils developing expertise to develop local care markets.
Miranda Wixon, chair of the Care Providers Alliance, told Community Care that it was vital the burden of regulations was eased to encourage new providers, who could ensure revitalised local care markets.
“Social care has grown up from people having a good idea and getting on and doing it. We need to get on and act on our ideas rather than having cumbersome processes that stifle us.”
What do you think? Join the debate on CareSpace
Keep up to date with the latest developments in social care. Sign up to our daily and weekly emails