Commissioners need more training, voluntary sector coalition tells government

Consultation response by Local Grants Forum says public sector contracting requires more 'co-design' with third sector organisations


The government must improve the skills of commissioners and help them build relationship with charities if it wishes to improve public sector contracting by the voluntary sector, according to the Local Grants Forum.

The group, a coalition of voluntary sector groups including the local infrastructure body Navca, Citizens Advice and the Directory of Social Change, has produced a list of 10 key points in response to a consultation on the Open Public Services white paper, which closed last week.

The forum said that good public service delivery would involve more "co-design" between contractors and third sector organisations, more training for local commissioners and closer relationships between commissioners and voluntary organisations.

Katy Wing, director of improving local services at Navca, said not enough thought had been given to the market-shaping role that commissioners played.

"We want commissioners to have the flexibility to use different mechanisms rather than putting everything out to competitive tendering," she said. "We would like to see them working more closely with local voluntary sector organisations."

The forum said its members had "major reservations" that payment by results could favour larger providers and damage voluntary organisations and community groups. It called for a stricter and more detailed version of the Merlin standard – the code of conduct used by the Department for Work and Pensions that says subcontractors should be treated fairly – to be introduced before the government issued more large centralised prime contracts.

Members of the forum include: Citizens Advice, the Community Foundation Network, Community Matters, the Directory for Social Change, Housing Justice, Navca, the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services, Novas Scarman, the Urban Forum and Voice4Change England.

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