Money management - Council managed budgets and use of brokerage
Commissioning and procurement bureaucracy and the use of brokerage services
Products or services can be purchased by the Council on behalf of a person or by the individual. The provision of the products or services can be direct by the Council, or indirect, via another Council, a contracted provider, or brokerage. Using a brokerage service to buy goods or services can enable greater choice for the person whilst not burdening them with a level of control that they do not want. The chosen method of buying the service must always meet the assessed needs.
What are the outcomes we want to achieve?
- Councils are able and willing to use people's personal budgets flexibly to meet their needs and achieve the outcomes identified in their plan
- People are enabled to use a mix of formal care and support, community networks and their own circle of support to meet their needs
- Providers are given sufficient time to respond to new enquiries wherever possible to ensure services can be tailored to meet individual needs
What tools and resources do we need to do a good job? What are the steps we have to go through?
- Diverse range of flexible, outcomes-based care and support services contracts
- Searchable online resource directory with transparent pricing of services
- Completed assessment, support plan, financial assessment and final personal budget
- The brokerage process will involve sharing a range of information with providers, including:
- Summary support plan
- The individual's wishes and preferences (including cultural, language etc.)
- Preferred start date
- Agreements for arranging care and support for self-funders and Council clients who to choose to put their purchases through the Council's commissioning service
- Risk management framework with tolerances
- Information sharing protocol
- Secure email
What are the products we will have at the end of this process?
- Details of potential commissioned provider(s)
- Final confirmed service start date
- Date for initial assessment by provider
- Written confirmation of arrangements for person and their family/ carer
- Mechanisms for customers to feedback about provider performance
When does this process start and end and within what timescales should this process be completed?
- Brokerage timescales dependent on need and urgency. Sign off and deployment of PB should be completed as soon as reasonably practicable
- Response times should form part of provider contracts
- Support Plan stays under general review
- Monitoring when the Council becomes aware of any issues with provider or person
Who needs to be involved and what is their role? Who is taking the lead?
- Family or carer
- Independent advocate or chosen representative
- Brokerage/contracts team
- Financial assessment team
Because public money is being spent, it is necessary to make sure that the cash is paying for the goods and services for which it was intended. This means a number of processes have to be in place:
- Procurement officers are needed to make sure contracts are let to external providers according to current procurement and standing orders based financial regulations.
- A performance framework has to be in place to evidence that providers are delivering value for money. More often than not, a time and task-based framework.
- Contract compliance officers are needed to make sure contracts are delivered according to contract
- Payments administrators are needed to collect evidence of activity, compare with invoices from the provider, and make appropriate payments.
Passing Council obligations on to providers without paying sufficient amounts for them to be delivered hinders service delivery. Also, the shape and flavour of those monitoring activities is usually what is problematic. This arises in the drafting of the contracts for the service provision, and a particular attitude towards who is in charge of risk. Most Council contracts attempt to get rid of risk altogether, which can be experienced as aggressive and unfair to the provider, and this establishes an adversarial culture which is neither constructive nor conducive to good partnerships. This commissioning context and associated processes get in the way of providers delivering a person-centred service to the customer.
One solution to managing council budgets is to reduce the demand on formally contracted services. This can be done by:
- Commissioning teams to focus more on building community capacity and extending the informal care and support market so that there is more choice of services and products for people receiving direct payments.
- Developing closer relationships between commissioners and front-line social work to help inform staff of local opportunities for enhancing the health and wellbeing of people who use services
Other solutions include developing Individual service fund/sub-contracting arrangements (see Council invoicing arrangements) or working with finance colleagues in councils to interpret the procurement regulations in more flexible ways.