A commissioner’s guide to developing and sustaining local user-led organisations

How do I overcome problems: Solutions checklist

By now, you should be familiar with the typical barriers that ULOs face in becoming strong and sustainable organisations, and the things that you – as a commissioner – can do to overcome them. In this section, you will find a quick overview of the common problems. For each one, some possible solutions for both ULOs and commissioners to consider are suggested. You can dip in and out of this section as new areas for development arise. For example, if you have identified strong ULOs in your area but find that they are not well networked, you can go to the section on user engagement and look up ‘relationships with existing or other ULOs’.


Appropriate governance arrangements

  • offer legal input to the ULO to develop governance arrangements
  • support a visit by the Charity Commission or infrastructure organisation (for example, CVS, NCVO) to develop governance arrangements. Also, see support offered by the ODI and Disability LIB in the ‘useful resources’ of the further resources section

Management Board effectiveness

  • support a SWOT/skills audit of the managementboard
  • commission support from another ULO to develop and strengthen the management committee

Funding and business-readiness

Low staffing levels

  • provide administrative support to the ULO to enable existing staff to focus on delivery
  • provide pump-priming funding or core grant to support appropriate staffing levels in the short-to medium-term
  • release public body staff on secondment to support time-bound projects or development, ensuring that those staff members have a strong understanding of ULOs

Lack of infrastructure (e.g. IT, HR policies)

  • offer secondhand equipment/furniture and so on to the ULO for free or reduced rates share model policies and procedures on HR for the ULO to adapt for its own purpose.

Lack of accessible premises

  • host the ULO in an existing public body building at peppercorn rates encourage existing local infrastructure organisations (for example, CVS or volunteer bureau) to host the ULO

Lack of robust business plan

  • provide project and business management support/expertise to support the ULO
  • set out clear commissioning objectives for 1-3 years to enable the ULO’s business plan to focus on these alongside other areas of work

Not operating on Full Cost

  • commissioners recognise overheads and so on in

Recovery basis

  • bids and contract responses
  • commissioners fund overhead elements through core grants or provide overhead support at peppercorn rates

Lack of sustainable and/or diverse funding streams (or funding is solely from the local authority)

  • act as a reference to ULO bids to other funding streams
  • support ULO to attend funding conferences/events
  • provide bid-writing support through public body funding team/officers
  • provide clear and accessible information and timescales for commissioner decision-making processes for annual funding

Understanding of commissioning arrangements

  • commissioner takes time to discuss political, financial and legal environment within which commissioning takes place
  • commissioner observes principles of the Compact in terms of procurement processes (for example, due notice)
  • allocate a ULO champion within the local authority to act as the main point of contact for all local ULOs
  • encourage umbrella civil society infrastructure organisations to support ULOs and ensure they have access to relevant training

Understanding of the wider operating context of local authorities (for example, performance indicators, LAAs, CAAs, local partnerships)

  • enable ULOs to take part in the statutory decision-making processes
  • provide accessible information to ULOs on the key targets for the local area, and how they can contribute to them

Appropriate performance management

  • allow ULO managers to take part in commissioner-run management training/development programmes
  • share model policies and procedures on HR for ULO to adapt for its own purpose

Demonstrating impact

  • commissioner provides support to the ULO to demonstrate its impact through its own performance monitoring arrangements
  • commissioner provides shared access to monitoring systems, rather than duplicating across organisation boundaries
  • commissioner requires consistent information from the ULO, and does not change monitoring requirements each reporting period
  • commissioner requests ‘new’ information, not that which it already holds

User engagement

Balancing campaigning activities with service delivery

  • the local authority is clear in its relationships with ULOs and vice versa so there is a shared level of understanding
  • there is a set of principles in place that both organisations can sign up to
  • local authorities respect the right of the ULO to represent its members on issues of importance to them
  • lead political member with relevant portfolio aware of arrangements and accessible to ULO if needed

Working across all social care user groups

  • encourage partnership working between ULOs with different impairment or social care service user specialisms
  • share contact details of key individuals working in or across different social care user groups
  • support training for specialist ULOs on different social care user groups, provided by ULOs who specialise in that social care user group

Working across all equality strands

  • encourage partnership working between ULOs with different equality specialisms
  • share contact details of key individuals working in or across different equality strands
  • support training for the ULO on the equality groups in question, provided by ULOs who specialise in that equality strand

Relationships with existing or other ULOs

  • encourage partnership working or mentoring arrangements between ULOs, including ULOs in other areas
  • share contact details of key individuals working in or across different organisations

Relationships with other civil society organisations for example, carers, BME groups, LGBT groups)

  • encourage partnership working or mentor arrangements between ULOs
  • share contact details of key individuals working in or across different organisations