Providers of housing related support are getting all too used to the relentless downward pressure on what local authority commissioners expect to pay for an hour of support.
When Supporting People was first introduced in 2003 it’s probably fair to say that none of us in the sector really knew what it cost to provide an hour of support. We’d simply never thought about it like that.
I remember the first competitive tender I took part in back in 2004 for a floating support contract in Gloucestershire. The winning bid was priced at £18.84 an hour. This probably did over state the true costs. Ten years on and the going rate is more like £16 an hour.
But there is really no room left to achieve any more efficiencies or squeeze th price any lower without having a disastrous affect on the quality of service provided. Despite this some local authorities seem intent on driving the price down even lower. A few recent tenders have said they will only accept submissions that are for £13 or even £12 an hour. That’s the sort of price that buys you 15 minute care visits provided by minimum wage care workers without the time to speak to their service users as they rush to their next appointment in their own, unpaid time. Report after report. Study after study has shown where this downward spiral takes us. Last year’s report by Leonard Cheshire report one of the most shocking.
So let’s take a look at what goes into an hour of support to give us a price of £16 an hour (or the total annual price of about £31,000).
My colleague Steve Nestor has summed it up nicely in this deck:
At Bromford we know that we can still attract great colleagues – people who want to do something fulfilling with their lives, to make a difference. We know we can train them; give them the leadership, tools and back up services they need to do a great job. But only if commissioners are prepared to pay a fair price.
The recent history of public sector procurement is littered with disaster stories of the race to the bottom leading to short term savings but long term pain….and often more cost to put things right. Let’s hope that the commissioners of housing support have learned that lesson.
If it sounds too good to be true then it probably is.