Breaking Down Barriers for the Third Sector

PCTs will be encouraged to consider local voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations when commissioning health and social care services thanks to a new report by the Department of Health’s third sector taskforce, launched today.  TheThird Sector Commissioning Task Forcereport sets out practical tools for PCTs, advising them how to make the most of the third sector, which can bring additional benefits to patients and service users with a wide range of high-quality and personalised services.

It also advises the third sector how to bid more successfully for contracts, providing a proposed model contract for discussion.

Launching the report, Ivan Lewis, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Care Services said: “We promised flexible care close to home in the Our health, our care, our say White Paperand this report will help us open up provision to the third sector who have a wealth of expertise to share in this area.

“Not only does this report provide useful information for PCTs on the contribution the third sector can make, but even more importantly proposes a set of practical tools for commissioners to consider as they plan their local services. I’d like to thank the Task Force for producing such a significant piece of work”.

Jo Williams, co-chair of the Taskforce added:  “I am genuinely excited by the opportunity that this report represents, to make a reality of partnership between the public and third sectors, in the context of service reform, and really change services so they are focused on responding to people’s individual needs and delivering better outcomes for service users. The real challenge now is for people to really think differently about how that can be made to happen and embrace change for the real benefit of service users.”

The taskforce hopes the tools will stimulate responses from commissioners and third sector representatives alike, and this feedback will be fed into the second commissioning framework due in December 2006. The report has also informed the first framework, which will be issued shortly.

The report advocates:

  • Better awareness and expertise amongst commissioners (PCTs in particular) of the third sector, how to identify local organisations and ensure they are involved in the planning process

  • Consistency of contracts and regulation across health and social care

  • A fair playing field in the commissioning process especially in relation to the cost and prices of services

  • Assistance to third sector providers to adapt their behaviour as equal players in service provision

Breaking down the barriers will result in more successful partnerships like the one that already exists between the charity Advocacy Partners and the London Borough of Merton. In cases where elderly patients require practical support after being discharged from hospital Advocacy Partners can offer an advocate to listen to their concerns and help them regain their confidence and the ability to continue living independently.

The Third Sector Commissioning Task Force report represents a year of intense collaborative working between the third and statutory sectors. It set out to:

  • Establish what barriers exist to third sector involvement in providing services so that a way can be found to remove these barriers

  • Promote a sound commercial partnership between public sector commissioners of health and social care services, and the third sector as providers of those services

  • Promote equality of access for all types of third sector organisations, compared with providers from other sectors

The report sets all of this out in the context of the vision for reform of health and social care in England, including the recent White Paper. To achieve the aim of providing a wider range of services for people closer to home there needs to be a wider range of providers who can innovate and improve services.

Speaking in his cross-government capacity as Minister for the Third Sector, Ed Miliband said: “I strongly welcome the publication of today’s report and its call to action for both public authorities and the third sector.

“The Taskforce’s model of collaborative working offers an ambitious way forward in the delivery of reform, and recognises the importance of getting the details of how we work together right.

“I look forward to working with the sector, and colleagues across government, as we ensure that organisations from community groups to social enterprises, national charities and local voluntary networks can all play an increasing role in helping design and deliver excellent services.”

Jonathan Bland, Chief Executive of the Social Enterprise Coalition said:  “The Social Enterprise Coalition welcomes the taskforce report and the commitments made to ensure that the role of social enterprise is properly included in the new commissioning health and wellbeing framework.

“Social enterprises have the potential to play a huge role in reforming and improving services through their capacity to engage and empower patients, staff and other stakeholders in new models of delivery. This can only happen if commissioners properly understand how this way of doing business operates.

“The commitment to improving contracting arrangements and streamlining regulation will, if carried out, improve the ability of social enterprises to deliver effectively in a range of areas across primary care. Alongside this, the Department of Health’s pledge to support new entrants through the planned Social Enterprise Investment Fund will be crucial to bring about the transformational vision set out in the White Paper earlier this year.

We look forward to working with the Department to deliver the priorities for action set out in the report launched today”.

To respond to the ideas set out in the report and contribute to the next commissioning framework, please visit