Monday, 4 January 2010

Direct Payments for Social Care

Many local councils now put the minutes of their meetings, and reports to those meetings, online. Middlesborough Council, in an executive report dated 17 December 2009, gives us an interesting insight into what has been happening with Direct Payments for Social Care. When this was introduced by the government, several councils found it financially more attractive to contract out the service than to set up an in-house department. A4e has a number of contracts around the country to handle Direct Payments, and Middlesborough was one of those councils which contracted with A4e. It has more than 550 people in receipt of such payments. The 5-year contract included employer support, payroll support and financial monitoring, and it was due to expire at the end of March 2010. But "several quality issues had arisen throughout the period of the contract with A4e" and the council decided to split off the financial monitoring and do it in-house, and to separate the other two functions into different contracts. But "there was only 1 tender submission in respect of the Employer Support Contract and this was from A4e (with whom there has [sic] been quality issues)." (As the report says, there is a "niche market" in such services, i.e. only A4e.) And the three submissions for the Payroll Support contract were unaffordable. So it's back to the drawing board, with a new contract combining Employer and Payroll Support, and that means a whole new tendering process. So A4e's current contract will be extended for 6 months.
We have reason to be grateful for transparency in local government.

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