A commissioner’s guide to developing and sustaining local user-led organisations
How do I overcome problems: What commissioners can do to overcome barriers
There are many ways in which commissioners can support ULOs to overcome the barriers facing them. Remember that good procurement is not just about low prices – it is about balancing whole life cost and meeting social objectives. It is also important to be sensitive to local contexts and cultures, and realistic in your expectations of newly developing ULOs.
Make sure ULOs have access to skills and expertise
You can do this by encouraging umbrella civil society organisations to reach out to ULOs so that they are included in training programmes. You can signpost ULOs to other training opportunities or organisations that can assist in their development. For some ideas of where to signpost ULOs to, see ‘Useful resources’ in the further resources section of this guide.
Work with ULOs to develop their capacity
This can be done by ‘pump priming’, or partnership working arrangements. Provide seed funding where no ULO exists. Consider releasing local authority staff (who have a strong understanding of the added value of ULOs) on secondment, and employing people who use services in ULOs on local authority contracts.
Encourage mentoring of small or new ULOs
This can be provided by larger, more established ULOs. To learn more about successful mentoring, see the good practice video on developing a new ULO.
Recognise the added value of ULOs
The value base of ULOs comes from the shared lived experiences of people who use services. This makes them more sensitive to the needs and views of local people who use services. Local authority champions can be crucial in promoting understanding of, and confidence in, ULOs. For more information see ‘The added value of ULOs’ earlier in this guide.
Work with ULOs wherever possible
Reach out to local ULOs, getting to know what organisations exist in your area and how they can be involved in the work of the local authority. Tackle local fears that ULOs are not capable of delivering services, and work with ULOs to develop their capacity for service delivery and development.
Review the contracting process: reserving contracts for ULOs
Commissioners should consider Article 19 of the EU Public Contracts Directive. In most ULOs, disabled people make up over 50 per cent of the workforce, which means the organisation is considered a ‘supported business’. Treasury guidance says commissioners should have at least one contract with a supported business. Given this, commissioners can:
- reserve appropriate contracts for supported businesses
- only invite tenders from supported businesses to bid for the work
- for contracts under £144K invite the supported business to bid or offer them the chance to match your best price
- for larger contracts, simply tick the ‘reserved under Article 19’ box.
Similarly, commissioners can use the Social Value Act to take account of social value when taking decisions about how to deliver public services. Social value means added economic, social or environmental benefits in delivering services, and ULOs are well placed to demonstrate this added social value during procurement processes
Enabling ULOs to support service user voice
To make the most out of any local ULO that exists, below are some effective options that are relatively easy to undertake to enable them to support service user voice:
- consider enabling ULOs to administer existing or new voice-based mechanisms in the local area, such as partnership boards or HealthWatch
- consider establishing or maintaining a partnership board/disabled people/user network for regular qualitative input on progress towards personalisation
- share contact details of local ULOs to every user of the social care system in the area
- consider establishing a strategic partnership with a ULO(s) in the area. One practical effect of such partnerships can include seconding staff to the ULO or having ULO staff shadow council staff
- broaden consideration of the role of ULOs so they focus on issues beyond social care, e.g. disability hate crime, employment, access to goods and services
- take advantage of developments and their associated funding in other policy areas, e.g. HealthWatch.
Enabling ULOs to support service delivery
To make the most out of any local ULO that exists, below are some effective options that are relatively easy to undertake to enable them to support local service delivery:
- assess current provision of different types of support service, especially those that could be provided by a ULO
- prioritise where ULOs can make the most valuable contribution to strategic priorities
- consider piloting ULO involvement in specific service development opportunities
- consider commissioning specifically from local providers only, particularly those in the voluntary sector or with specific expertise (such as ULOs)
- ensure tendering processes are accessible for ULOs
- use the agreed principles of the Local Compact to inform commissioning arrangements.
For more information on what commissioners can do to overcome barriers see Detailed suggestions on what commissioners can do...