If it sounds too good…

too good to be true

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.


2 responses to “If it sounds too good…

  1. Really good post John – we need to provoke discussion. The analogy with care workers is very personal to me at the moment – they are task driven not care driven. Have seen some dreadfully sad events with older people receiving care – when 15 minutes is the choice between toileting or ‘preparing’ microwave food. Is this really how Britain cares for its elders in the 21st century…


    • Thanks Jane. I agree. It seems there is a new report or TV programme revealing what care services are really like, every few weeks. Most are purchased by local authorities through a competitive tender where price seems to rule all other considerations. I think the work you are doing to help build up connected communities where more care and support comes from neighbours, friends or family members has to be the solution.


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