The Manchester Advocacy Hub
The initial driver for the recommissioning of the advocacy service was to better integrate services. The existing provision had grown organically and was consequently disjointed, with nine different advocacy contracts managed by six different providers. The decision was made to pull all the different forms of advocacy into one, in order to reduce the transaction costs of handling nine contracts, to provide a broader offer with clearer and easier access. Introducing a single gateway into advocacy was also seen as potentially providing a better understanding of the advocacy need in the city and improving the quality of provision.
Manchester City Council began a public consultation process which included an electronic survey, undertook workshops with service users and commenced soft market testing with providers. There was support for the hub although some initial feedback suggested it was too focused on the statutory requirements for advocacy. The Council ensured the feedback informed the process and subsequently went out to tender for an organisation to provide a single gateway to a range of advocacy (hub model). The contract was awarded to a partnership between two local providers. A critical consideration in the decision-making was social value, for example, local knowledge, a track record in working in partnership with other third sector organisations, the development of self-advocacy and peer support models.
There are crossovers between different types of advocacy and a single gateway ensures greater flexibility resulting in fewer delays. A single gateway also means people are given a consistent service.
Advocacy services are part of an asset-based approach, empowering people and giving them the skills, knowledge and confidence to be able to advocate on their own in the future.