Support for commissioners in meeting duty to boost care choice

Care services minister Norman Lamb launches £700,000 programme to help councils meet proposed duty to promote diverse and high-quality care market.

Social care commissioners are to benefit from a £700,000 programme to sharpen their market shaping skills in order to provide service users with greater choice and quality.

The Developing care markets for quality and choice programme, launched today by care services minister Norman Lamb, is designed to help councils meet a future duty to promote a market that provides users with a choice of high-quality services. The duty is included in the draft Care and Support Bill, whose provisions are expected to come into force in April 2015..

“We want to improve the care services already in place by giving local authorities the skills to work together with their care providers and anticipate future priorities, pressures and challenges in order to tailor care for their communities,” said Lamb.

Commissioners will receive support in three areas:-

  • Developing market intelligence, including an understanding of current and future demand for services and existing supply, and a vision of what good quality care looks like, and setting this out in a market position statement;
  • Market structuring, which involves setting out how council commissioners intend to shape the market, for example through a strategy to move from commissioning by volume to commissioning by outcomes;
  • Market intervention, which involves intervening in the market to promote desired outcomes through mechanisms such as contracts or payment by results mechanisms.

How the programme will work

The Department of Health has commissioned the Institute of Public Care (IPC) at Oxford Brooks University to deliver the programme, which will run until January 2014. All councils are being invited to take part and participants will have to fill out a self-assessment survey to determine the type and level of support they need.

The IPC will deliver the programme with the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services with eighty days of support from the IPC available to each of the nine Adass regions for their member councils.

Partnerships with providers crucial

The United Kingdom Homecare Association welcomed the announcement but said councils’ ability to shape the market would be contingent on them working effectively with providers.

“Markets develop most successfully where purchasers and providers are talking constructively,” said UKHCA chief executive Bridget Warr. “The test of the success of this initiative will be increased engagement and willingness by councils to encourage and foster innovative ways of working from existing and prospective providers.”

Existing work in this area

The programme will operate alongside the work of the National Market Development Forum, which brings together providers and commissioners to help develop the social care market in line with personalisation.

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