Two Liverpool charities reject local authority contracts over reduced levels of service

Lesley Dixon, head of Person Shaped Support, says her charity wants to work with a clear conscience, even if it means walking away from money

Lesley Dixon
Lesley Dixon

Two charities in the north-west of England have walked away from local authority contracts because they consider the terms of service to be unacceptable.

The charities, Local Solutions and Person Shaped Support, both based in Liverpool, said they had either pulled out of or not submitted bids for contracts because the levels of service in the contracts for beneficiaries were too low.

Local Solutions, a charity that supplies a range of community support including homelessness provision, early years and homecare services, said that over the past two years it had pulled out of existing contracts or refused to renew contracts with at least four councils.

Steve Hawkins, chief executive of the charity, which works with 12 local authorities, told Third Sector: "We are being more circumspect on the contracts that we accept and at the point of renewal we are coming away from some contracts.

"Our trustees are very mindful of a downward spiral that we are seeing with a lot of local authority contracts being razed to the bottom.

"As a charity we need to work for the higher good for our staff and beneficiaries. We have got empathy with the public sector, and it has huge financial problems, but someone needs to say that enough is enough. Local Solutions has strong trustees who are very supportive, even if not accepting these contracts results in a reduction in the charity’s turnover and influence."

Local Solutions pulled back from providing domiciliary care contracts because a local authority was reducing home visits to 15 minutes. He declined to name the local authorities concerned.

"Imagine a staff member making 24 calls in six hours in the rain with people not answering their doors right away and walking between jobs," said Hawkins. "We think in many cases this is inappropriate and we do not want this to be the default position; it is a stage too far."

Lesley Dixon, chief executive of Person Shaped Support, a community support charity, said it had increasingly declined to bid for contracts because staff were unhappy with the terms of service and PSS believed it did not fit with its core values.

PSS stopped a domiciliary care contract following a review. It also came to a mutual agreement with a local authority and primary care trust to hand back a children’s respite centre contract because the service needs had changed and it was no longer its area of specialism.

"We decided that it was not our world and not what we wanted to do, so we set up an exit plan and walked away from the money," says Dixon.

"Clearly we need to be sustainable, but not at any cost. We want to work with a clear conscience. The trustees want us to do what is right and not just financially expedient. We need to make the books balance and develop areas that bring in money, but do it in a way that sits with our values.

"I think more organisations are struggling with this and having to go back to their core values. If they accept a contract simply in order to continue to survive, then is that what they were set up to do?"

Dixon also declined to name the councils involved.

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