Do: Tasks for independent advocacy commissioning

Published: October 2014
Updated: March 2015

Develop a clear picture of the range of potential providers in your area: their strengths, weaknesses and future plans.

Consider developing an understanding of potential providers through:

Influence the local market for advocacy to develop services in line with your population needs, rather than the historical awarding of contracts.

Engage in regular and productive dialogue with providers which encourages consensus and partnership-orientated relationships.

Using the above mechanisms, work with providers to ensure diversity of available services and encourage collaboration where possible to develop the market. Work with service users, potential service users and providers to design services which meet the needs identified in the earlier analysis.

Build any plans for commissioning advocacy services into market position statements and work with providers to understand the market and the potential challenges your commissioning plans present.

Consider encouraging the development of partnerships between larger organisations and smaller, local ones. This could be developed through peer-to-peer evaluation and support or more formal consortium arrangements.

Develop service specifications and contracts that are flexible, evidenced-based, specific about what is required from the provider (or providers) and outcome-focused.

Be clear about the legal requirements for providers (see the sections ‘Background’ and ‘Advocacy duties’ in this guide). Consider and specify the requirements for organisations or consortiums to enable them to deliver this service and ensure compliance with your legal duties.

Consider the level of training and expertise individual advocates must have in relation to the wide range of processes through which they will need to support people. You should ensure that contracts allow for sufficient time and adequate arrangements for staff training and support, along with continuing professional development.

Specify the funding model for the service, considering the expected growth in demand over the life of the contract and your analysis of demand and available resources. Ensure flexibility and funding stability for providers. Carefully specify the expected outcomes, developed locally with key stakeholders, including potential users of services. Specify a mechanism for ensuring the independence of the service – it is good practice to identify the means of safeguarding independence in funding agreements and contracts. This would include, for example:

Be clear about the pathway for referral/instruction in the new service and about how this fits with any redesign of the assessment and care management processes of your local authority.

Specify the need for clear feedback mechanisms for users of, and referrers to, the new service, to both provider and commissioner. Specify a clear requirement to collect and provide information about protected groups, in line with human rights legislation.

Specify requirements for any provider to promote and market their service, both alongside the council in its duty to provide information and advice, and independently, particularly within ‘seldom heard’ groups. Ensure contracts enable access and influence for commissioners in relation to the effective operation of the service and consider the results of feedback from referrers and users of the advocacy service.

Treat all providers equally.

Be open and transparent about any communication with potential providers. Ensure you offer the same opportunities for communication to all, and be clear about the requirements of any procurement process you seek to pursue.

Ensure procurement and contract monitoring activities are proportionate to risk and promote the delivery of outcomes.

Procurement should be led by the strategic analysis of need over the life of the contract and in terms of the relationship with other services. Consider joint commissioning with other agencies including other local authorities, health services and children’s services.

Work with providers to understand how you can build flexibility into the delivery of services and the ability to respond quickly to changes in demand.

Maintain good and consistent dialogue with providers and the users of services so that issues of delivery can be picked up quickly and easily, before they become a contractual issue.

Have effective strategies and plans in place to ensure staff, users and their carers are aware of and understand the advocacy offer.

Develop plans for training and development of staff so that they are aware of the changes to advocacy arrangements under the Care Act, and how this might impact their roles and responsibilities.

Review the pathways for people using services and ensure that assessment processes are effective in picking up a potential need for advocacy services every step of the way.

Work with users and their carers to test approaches and develop information and support materials to enable people to access services quickly and easily if they are required.

Review information and guidance support to ensure this aligns with the Care Act advocacy duty.

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