Last year we wrote about the Public Social Partnerships being pioneered in Scotland – a mechanism for the public and third sectors to jointly develop new approaches to public service delivery. In this guest post, David Fogg explains more about them.
Public authorities increasingly view partnership working with the private and civil society sectors as essential to ensuring the efficient delivery of services and effective achievement of service user outcomes. As public sector focus is now on ensuring services are preventative and deliver outcomes rather than outputs, it is essential that the views, experience and knowledge of external organisations are drawn into the commissioning process at the earliest opportunity. This can ensure that the services of the future are truly co-produced.
In support of this growing agenda, the Scottish Government has (since 2011) invested in the ‘Developing Markets for Third Sector Providers’ programme which specifically aims to increase the role of civil society organisations in the (re)design and delivery of public services. One key element of this programme has been the development of a particular model of joint working – Public Social Partnerships (PSPs).
These PSPs are partnerships between the public and civil society sectors, with the potential to include the private sector. They are based on a co-production approach which places people who use services, their families and carers, at the centre of the design process and delivers services based on their explicit needs.
Typically, a PSP will consist of the following stages:
- Identify: a requirement for re-designing existing services/interventions or developing a new intervention is identified. Organisations from the third and public sectors with a shared vision for the future and the capability to commit to a PSP are identified and engaged.
- Create: the partnership itself is created, with joint partnership goals, appropriate governance structures and the approach to working together agreed. These are documented in a Memorandum of Understanding which defines the principles of the PSP and is signed by all partner organisations.
- Design & Pilot: third sector and public organisations work together with people who use services to design how interventions can be delivered and how social benefit can be maximised. These interventions are then tested for a limited time. During this period partners can adjust how the interventions are delivered to ensure outcomes are most effectively met. Throughout this process, focus is given to building an evidence base of why and how the new service delivers benefit to support discussions around service sustainability with key decision-makers
- Mainstreaming of Service: interventions which successfully meet the agreed outcomes and have commitment from the public sector to provide mainstream funding will then be procured by one or more public sector partners. This typically involves the fair and transparent competitive tendering of a contract to deliver the service.
The early signs suggest that PSPs deliver significant benefits and are here to stay. For example, whilst a lot of good work has been done to date to implement the Social Value Act into procurement processes, there is still some way to go until social value considerations become part of standard processes across the public sector. PSP addresses this and indeed goes further than the act’s requirements by providing a clear structure for ensuring social value is considered from the very beginning of the design process, is reflected throughout, and is embedded in later procurement.
Services re-designed using this approach are not based on historical delivery and tweaking the edges. Instead, the model delivers a radical re-design because it brings in the experience, knowledge and innovations of civil society organisations – those who are closest to our local communities and understand what matters most to them. This facilitates early action in public services.
Critically, PSPs are person-centred, with service users involved throughout the commissioning process. This allows greater choice and control for individuals over the services they use and this helps maximise the impact on an individual’s wellbeing. A knock-on benefit of this will be that people will have a reduced need to access other public services – allowing either a saving to the public sector or the more efficient re-direction of resources.
The model also generates real cultural change – not only do relationships between sectors develop into a shared vision for the future of services and collaborative working, but barriers between departmental silos can also be broken down, leading to the structure and delivery of public services being considered in fundamentally different ways.
While the PSP approach will continue to develop over the coming years, it goes beyond theory and is a practical and flexible approach to the co-production of services. As knowledge and understanding of the model increases, adoption rates will continue to grow. As such, it is already attracting significant interest and is in use across a wide range of areas within Scotland:
- Criminal Justice: developing a throughcare pathway with allocated key-workers to support offenders both in prison and in the community
- Adult Social Care: re-designing supported living and day services for adults with learning disabilities
- Community Transport: re-designing bookable bus services to support those unable to access regular public transport provision
- Reducing Reoffending Change Fund: embedding evidence–based mentoring schemes for female and prolific male offenders
- Mental Health: re-designing rehabilitation pathways which support individuals to move from facility-based to community-based care
- Early Years Change Fund: developing Family Support services
These issues driving the Authorities in Scotland are also being faced by Authorities in England, for example in Offender Management, Early Action, and the integration of Health and Social Care, so the applicability of the model across the UK is clear. Although no one approach can ever provide the solution to all of the issues currently facing public services, PSP is certainly shaping up as a valuable tool in the armoury of public sector commissioners.
David Fogg is a Manager in KPMG’s Public Sector Procurement Sourcing & Commissioning practice and has led PSP support as part of the Ready for Business consortium delivering the Scottish Government’s Developing Markets Programme