A new report on care service re-tendering launched by Community Care Providers Scotland (CCPS) highlights the massive amount of disruption caused by re-tendering exercises.The report presents the findings of a survey conducted among Scotland’s most substantial voluntary sector care providers, and focuses on 14 separate re-tenders across 10 local authority areas. It identifies 24 separate transactions in which over 360 individuals and 500 staff were transferred to a new provider following tendering exercises.
So far as the service providers involved were aware, none of the people supported by these services were consulted by the local authority before the decision to re-tender their support was taken, and in many cases, they were not made aware of it even when the tender exercise was underway.
In the report, providers highlight the huge management and administrative burden of dealing with re-tenders, which diverts their energies away from service development and quality improvement. Major doubts are expressed about the degree of rigour applied to tender evaluations and serious concerns raised about the way in which these exercises are taken forward.
One particular area of concern is the way in which tender exercises re-configure service areas geographically: in order to continue supporting individuals with whom they have worked for many years, providers can be put in the invidious position of having to bid for much larger contracts comprising work currently undertaken by their fellow voluntary organisations.
Another problem area is the lack of reference by authorities to existing providers’ track record, or to levels of user satisfaction with the quality of existing services. In many instances, providers reported that the commissioning authority did not even consider Care Commission inspection reports as part of the tender evaluation process.
Annie Gunner Logan, CCPS Director, said “This report shows that care service re-tendering is costly, disruptive, labour-intensive and a cause of very significant anxiety for people who use services, their families, and the staff who provide their support. It clearly shows that there is real cause for concern about the impact of these procurement exercises: what is much less clear are the supposed benefits”.
“Providers taking part in this survey say that in their experience of bidding in these exercises, quality of service takes a back seat and cost is the main driver. The report paints a worrying picture of voluntary organisations facing a choice of either bidding against one another in flawed processes designed chiefly to reduce costs, or to walk away from people they have been supporting, in some cases for fifteen years or more.”
CCPS is urging all those authorities considering the re-tendering of care services to read the report and re-examine their plans in the light of its findings. It is also working with a range of partners, including COSLA, the Association of Directors of Social Work (ADSW) and the Scottish Government, to address the problems associated with re-tendering.