Social Care Procurement Scotland: Guidance - Consultation Draft

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1. Introduction

Purpose of the guidance

The guidance provides a framework for social care procurement in Scotland. It defines a set of key principles which must be applied to procurement activity in social care, encompassing care and support for children and families, for adults and older people, and criminal justice services. It sets out the legislative and regulatory requirements which apply to procurement activity and considers policy and practice at key stages in the procurement process.

Why the guidance has been developed

This guidance has been developed in consultation with a Reference Group on which key stakeholders with an interest in social care procurement are represented 1. It has been developed in recognition that social care procurement requires special consideration within a Council's (or other commissioning body's) overall approach to the procurement of goods, works and services.

Social care procurement has a significant impact on the quality of life, health and well-being of service users and carers. In order to achieve the best outcomes for service users and carers, it is essential that the views they express about their needs and wishes are considered in the development of procurement strategies and as an integral part of the procurement process.

How to use the guidance

This guidance expands on guidance published by the Scottish Government in August 2008 which provided advice on the requirement to advertise social care contracts and to award such contracts through open and fair competition 2. It outlines the legislative and policy context for social care procurement, details the principles which must govern all social care procurement activity and provides guidance on useful ways to structure and conduct procurement activity.

As explained above, this guidance provides a framework for social care procurement in Scotland; it is not intended to be a step-by-step guide to social care procurement. Each local authority is responsible for reviewing its social care procurement policy and procedures to ensure consistency with the guidance.

Councils will continue to have considerable discretion about the approach adopted in individual situations. This discretion should be exercised with due consideration to the requirements of the social care procurement principles outlined in section 2. These principles must inform activity during each of the five stages detailed in the guidance - Preparation, Analysis, Planning, Securing Services and Review.

Who the guidance is for

Whilst highly relevant to service users and carers, the guidance is primarily designed for staff at all levels in local authorities and voluntary and private sector organisations, who have an involvement in social care procurement.

Overview

What is procurement

Procurement is the process by which a local authority purchases goods and services identified in its commissioning strategy which will meet the needs of communities and individuals 3. Procurement is not the only way by which local authorities can secure services - local authorities have a range of other options, including grant funding or the provision of services in-house. However, this guidance applies when a local authority decides to purchase social care services from external service providers.

Relationship to strategic commissioning

Strategic commissioning is the term used for all the activities involved in assessing and forecasting needs, agreeing desired outcomes, considering options, planning the nature, range and quality of future services and working in partnership to put these in place. 4 Strategic commissioning should provide a clear rationale for service development and purchasing (procurement) activity.

Valuing people, creating change

Local policy and practice must reflect the way local authorities and service providers value people. The direction of government policy towards much greater service user and carer involvement in strategic planning and service design, along with greater control for service users and carers, and an increase in direct purchasing by individuals, all suggest that change will be a continuing feature in social care and support.

Social care procurement is a key element in planning and managing change. This guidance should therefore be considered within this context, recognising what is reasonable and achievable within the existing social and economic environment.