03 August 2009 | Jake Kanter
Sunderland City Council (SCC) has radically overhauled its social care procurement in a bid to improve service levels and drive savings.
A review of the local authority's social care purchasing late last year found it needed to improve planning and specifications, as well as introduce more outcome based agreements with suppliers.
As a result, SCC's social care procurement team was restructured and a category management approach was introduced. The department also developed a "procurement route-way", giving stakeholders and buyers clear definitions of their roles and targets at each stage of the contracting process.
SCC procurement manager and project leader Lee Jackson said the changes mean staff at the council's Health, Housing and Adult Services Directorate (HHASD) have a clearer understanding of purchasing and duplication has been reduced. Outcome based agreements are helping improve social care standards, giving suppliers the opportunity to deliver services that better reflect the needs of users.
"Previously the HHASD had relied on detailed specifications, perhaps over-specifying to the extent that potential suppliers were constrained in their responses," Jackson said. "Adopting an outcome-based approach has enabled contractors to innovate, providing services that are cost-effective and better focused."
The changes have also helped deliver savings of over £440,000 on four recently awarded contracts, including "short break services" which offer residential support for limited periods.
Jackson said improvements at SCC reflect a wider government push for transformation in the social care system, which has placed more emphasis on the needs of individuals.