The Third Sector Research Centre has published an initial report on research on that sets out to discover the realities of commissioning local mental health services from perspective of third sector organisations (TSOs), as well as from the perspective of public sector bodies.
The findings suggest that within, this case study locality and service field at least, the commissioning cycle is not yet in full operation. For both commissioners and TSOs the procurement and contracting elements continue to take precedence. Whilst there is evidence that practice around these elements has changed to some extent (in particular the greater use of contracts rather than grants and more competitive processes), there is also considerable continuity in the importance of personal relations between the commissioner and provider and which organisations receive funding.
In contrast with previous studies, many of the TSOs welcomed regular tendering as an opportunity to expand their services and also as it involves the public sector reviewing what they fund.
From the perspective of TSOs the public sector can improve its practices through ensuring that its commissioning staff have the skills and experience to undertake these roles, that the organisational processes are undertaken effectively and fairly, and that the different commissioning teams work across the user and service group silos. The tendency of the public sector to undertake whole system (e.g. health) and internal organisational (e.g. social care) changes appear to lead to considerable disruption in the commissioning process and the relationships that underpin it.
The full report looks at TSOs experiences of tendering, contracting, and the dynamics of collaboration and competition. It also considers which factors influence a positive implementation of commissioning.
The report can be read here.
The Third Sector Research Centre works to enhance knowledge through independent and critical research. In collaboration with practitioners, policy makers, and other academics, we explore the key issues affecting charities and voluntary organisations, community groups, social enterprises, cooperatives and mutuals.