Marjorie Shucksmith is Highfield’s qualification development manager for the health and social care sector, in this article she discusses the role and important of social care commissioners, and the positive impact new standards will have on the sector.
While there had been gradual changes in the focus of social care commissioners towards promoting citizenship, health and wellbeing, the Care Act 2014 put into legislation the duty to promote the wellbeing of individuals. This means ensuring that services maximise the potential for self-care and build on the skills and assets of each individual.
To help address the new challenges this presents, new standards (Commissioning for Better Outcomes) were developed by a team from the Health Services Management Centre at Birmingham University, commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), and funded by the Department of Health. It was launched to assist with the implementation of the changes brought about by the Care Act to achieve high-quality commissioning activities and to drive improvement by encouraging local authorities to follow a self-assessment process. For many, this will result in changes to current practice:
‘…to focus on promoting wellbeing and on outcomes, to be more responsive to community needs, to enable individuals as commissioners of their own care, and to actively promote collaboration across the whole system.’
Commissioning for Better Outcomes, 2015
A commissioner for wellbeing is responsible for ensuring that there is a supply of sufficient provision to meet demand for social care in their local area. This covers both the service type and the capacity of that service. The social care commissioning workforce is responsible, in most local authorities, for the largest element of local authority expenditure and as such have a significant impact on local economies. This is in part through the number of care jobs created as a result of commissioning a service, but also when considering any other local supporting services, such as catering and building services. The role is constantly evolving in response to the needs of their local area, and commissioners must have the knowledge and skills to review local demands to meet them appropriately. Managing supply and demand in a person-centred and outcomes-focused way is key to the role of a commissioner for wellbeing, and partnership arrangements, coproduction and consultation have increased importance in this role.
‘Effective commissioning can only be achieved by empowering people who need care and support, their carers and families to play a leading role in shaping and driving the changes they want to see… Local authorities are responsible for a responsive, diverse and sustainable market of service providers that can provide high quality, personalised care and support that best meets the needs of people.’
As well as those that work in commissioning roles in local authorities, there are similar changes in focus for those who provide adult social care services, in terms of how they commission (subcontract) parts of their own service.
These changes mean there is a potential skills gap in the current workforce and therefore a need for a new qualification to be developed for both existing care commissioners and also with the purpose of providing a clear career path to those aspiring to become care commissioners. HABC is working closely with Skills for Care and a number of local authorities to develop the new Level 5 Certificate in Commissioning for Wellbeing, which will cover key areas such as:
1) The role of a commissioner for wellbeing
2) Commissioning together for outcomes
3) The commissioning cycle
4) Professional development for effective commissioning
The qualification will be assessed by internally set and assessed pieces of work such as assignments, reports, presentations and research projects. The content of the qualification will be knowledge-based and allow learners the flexibility to apply the knowledge to scenarios and situations to demonstrate their understanding and ability in commissioning for wellbeing.
The qualification will be ready to deliver in October 2016. If you are interested in finding out more, please register your interest at email@example.com