Procurement reform made simple

Making sense of social care procurement

If you’ve been involved with social care services for a while, you’ve probably noticed that procurement activity has increased over the last decade, following some key changes to the law.

These reforms have attempted to improve public procurement while also giving space to the things that make social care purchasing unique. However, there are still tensions between procurement policy and social care policy, and sometimes it feels like purchasing procedures are driving service-design, rather than the other way around.

Lots of our members are asking questions like:

‘how do collaboration, partnership and choice fit with rigid procurement processes like competitive tendering?’


‘how do not-for-profit providers nurture quality, innovation and workforce development when they’re competing for contracts?’

But there’s good news.

Procurement is more flexible than you think.

In fact, there’s actually quite a bit of flexibility in procurement law to help achieve these goals.

Procurement doesn’t just mean tendering – it could include direct awards, public social partnerships, repeat contracts, negotiated procedures and national frameworks.

Under the new ‘light touch’ regime, public bodies can choose any approach they like, as long as it fits with EU Treaty principles. They are also no longer required to advertise for social care contracts under €750,000, which opens the door to alternative ways of procuring.

You can read more about this in our quick guide to procurement and social care.

How is CCPS supporting social care procurement reform?

We believe getting personalisation, co-production and integrated support right requires everyone involved in social care procurement to embrace the need for change.

To that end, we’re working to:

  • Raise awareness of the tensions between social care policy and procurement policy.
  • Support good practice in tendering and procurement for care and support.
  • Explore alternatives to competitive tendering.
  • Promote joint strategic commissioning.

We also participated in the working group created to revise the 2010 guidance, in light of changes to procurement and social care legislation, and we’ve commissioned major national surveys to look at how third sector service providers experience procurement.

Our Improve Commissioning programme aims to help purchasers and providers work in partnership to provide better care and support services to those who need them. We want to make procurement less daunting so purchasers and providers feel confident about solving problems together.

What you can do now: 

Get handy resources. Check out our recent work, quick guides and publications here.

Sound out the options. If you’re ready to do things differently but aren’t sure where to start, give us a call – we can point you in the right direction.

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