How social care commissioning skills are being improved

Better approaches to considering the needs of carers are among the fruits of the National Skills Academy for Social Care's commissioning training programme, says project manager Helen Smith, in the latest of the academy's articles for You Care.

The National Skills Academy for Social Care’s inaugural cycle of its Commissioning Now programme drew to a close last month. The programme, designed to bring individuals from various corners of commissioning together to consider what good commissioning looks like and offer tools to achieve it, has met with high praise from participants and some interesting outputs and reflections. 

Attracting commissioning managers, team leaders and service managers, Commissioning Now blends online learning resources, webinars and diagnostic tools with three expertly facilitated workshops. Discussion topics emerging from cycle one centred around common challenges such as personalisation and personal budgets, the need for new and improved partnerships with communities (and internally with other local authority departments), the impact of changes in the way markets and relationships with providers are being developed and the necessity now, and in the foreseeable future, to meet increasing demand with fewer resources. 

Feedback from all participants was very positive. They said they had found the workshops to be very flexible, interactive and responsive to their needs, and that the programme had enabled a valuable exchange of experiences and reflection on what works and what doesn’t in practice, while also developing confidence and support structures for adopting innovative ways of working.   

A resounding conclusion drawn early on was that commissioners have a central role to play in driving excellence in social care through leadership. Participants immediately rose to this realisation by continuously reporting back throughout the programme on the various ways in which they were taking renewed ownership as a result of Commissioning Now. Steps underway include fresh approaches towards action planning, the production of a single overarching strategy to replace numerous documents, and reports of a successful new approach adopted around meeting with carers.

Caroline Tack, commissioning manager for adults with learning disability at Lambeth Council, believes her participation in the inaugural programme has provided her with an invaluable opportunity to reflect on her own organisation’s practices. Furthermore, “it has been great to have the chance to learn and share experiences with commissioning colleagues from other authorities”, she enthused. Meanwhile, East Cheshire Council commissioning manager Rob Walker said: “Whereas previously I felt I was standing under a waterfall, I am now only under a shower.  I am certain this shift can be attributed to the Commissioning Now programme.”

A second cycle of Commissioning Now will commence in March 2013.  For further details please email Matthew Parris, programme and engagement executive at the academy, or call him on 0207 286 3283.

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