Welcome to the first public services news round-up of 2016. This month, we look at improving grant funding transparency, localising welfare-to-work, devolution and data, and new resources on contracting. If you have any thoughts, comments or challenges then please leave a message below or tweet us @ncvo @NJ_Davies.
Grant funding transparency
Government intends to improve transparency surrounding grants by implementing a Government Grants Information System (GGIS), following a Public Accounts Committee report into funding for Kids Company. This will collate information about grants funding from across government.
We believe that to effectively improve transparency the GGIS will need to include details of grants to all sectors, not just those to the voluntary sector, and should make the information in the system publicly available. Government could also use this opportunity to increase transparency for contracts funding.
Contracts Finder could require that all key information is provided for contracts, and assign contractors a unique public identifier so that funding data can be collated. Information about funding reaching subcontractors could be made available through a standardised transparency clause in government contracts. Read more in Nick’s blog post.
In responding to the Public Accounts Committee Report, the government has also announced that it will undertake fundamental review of how it makes direct and noncompetitive grants to the voluntary sector.
The LGA is calling for local, integrated welfare-to-work provision for people with complex needs, who the Work Programme was less effective for. Its Realising Talent: Supporting People with Multiple Needs into Work report finds that joining up health, employment, skills, and Troubled Families support within local areas would help more users gain employment.
Users would receive an assessment designed by DWP and local government to show what factors are preventing them moving to employment. A key worker, based on those used in the Troubled Families Programme, would then design a tailored support plan for the user and refer them to health, skills, and employment support services. Services would be co-located so that they are easier to use, whilst employers would be consulted to ensure that services equip users for the local jobs market.
NCVO believes that the Work Programme’s limited use of voluntary sector expertise is one reason the scheme underperformed for people with complex needs. Localised provision would enable smaller, specialist organisations to deliver services, who have often been excluded by the Work Programme’s use of large, nationally procured contracts. A thorough initial assessment could also enable users to be referred to support from expert charities. Read more about the Work Programme and how sector expertise can be used in future welfare-to-work schemes in NCVO’s Stepping Stones report.
Devolution and data
Policy Exchange has launched its new Smart Devolution report calling for policies to encourage cities with devolved powers to become more data-driven. City-wide data would enable authorities to make the best use of new, devolved powers, such as deciding spending priorities or how to integrate public services. Devolution could, at the same time, give cities the opportunity to work to integrate data about their area. The report calls for cities to create Offices for Data Analytics, which would collate and analyse data about the city from across the public sector to enhance decision-making. It would also run a City Data Marketplace that would enable organisations across different sectors to access or provide data.
The report indicates that these recommendations could benefit the voluntary sector: the sector could use the City Data Market Place, and the ODAs would provide better open data than is currently available which charities could use to inform their work.
Is contracting right for your organisation?
With a greater proportion of government funding for the sector coming from contracts, organisations that haven’t taken them on before may need to start. Lev’s latest blog post details key considerations for voluntary organisations interested in contracting, and highlights the Big Potential grant programme, which offers support to voluntary organisations which want to develop their capacity to take on contracts worth over £1m.
Want to know more about contracting?
New resources on commissioning are now available on NCVO’s support website Knowhow. This covers all aspects of the commissioning cycle and contracting – from deciding whether or not to bid through to writing successful pre-qualification questionnaires and tenders, and monitoring and evaluating public service delivery.