Scottish groups call for commissioning reform

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations and Community Care Providers Scotland, the umbrella body for social care charities, have teamed up with major trade unions to press for reform of commissioning practice north of the border.

The group, which includes the Scottish TUC, TGWU/Unite and Unison, is calling on local authorities to bring the wages and conditions of front line workers in voluntary sector providers into line those in the public sector.

It also wants authorities to commit themselves to five-year contracts, the reform of competitive tendering and a focus on the sector’s added value in assessing best value criteria.

The Scottish Government should also set out a national framework covering commissioning and funding, according to the group. Stephen Maxwell, associate director of the SCVO, warned that the Government’s £30m capacity-building programme would not result in greater sector involvement in public service delivery unless there were major improvements in the way the services were commissioned and funded.

“The tight financial settlement and the greater discretion given to councils leave third sector providers particularly vulnerable to cuts,” he said. “This agreement will lead to both better public services for taxpayers and to greater stability for frontline service workers across the sectors.”

In April, a report by Community Care Providers Scotland showed that 94 per cent of Scottish care charities that delivered public services last year had lost money because their contracts did not cover their costs.

Annie Gunner, its chief executive, said: “This campaign is about supporting workers who assist some of the most vulnerable members of our society. It’s only fair that they have the same terms and conditions as other sectors. Sustainable funding on a five-year basis will ensure that voluntary organisations can play a full part in providing quality services that are tailored to the needs of users.”

This year, a number of Scottish social care charities, including Quarriers and the Mungo Foundation, were threatened with strike action. The charities attributed their inability to meet unions’ wage demands to below-inflation increases in their contract incomes.

David Moxham assistant secretary of the Scottish TUC, said: “It’s time to end the merry-go-round of continual compulsory tendering and concentrate on delivering for service users.”

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