On the 8TH September 2016 Bristol launched its framework tender for all Community Support Services (CSS).   At the outset of the consultation the local authority stated that it commissioned in excess of 23, 000 hours of CSS per week to over a 1000 individuals and had over100 providers delivering services on its behalf in Bristol covering areas such as Carers Service, Supported Living (accommodation based support), Community Outreach and Day Services (day centres).

Given such scope and diversity this tendering exercise was always going to be complex.  The process up to the launch of tender has been lengthy with the local authority representatives along with many providers attending numerous workshops, co-production meetings and provider meetings.  We saw some positive working between providers and commissioners in relation to the Specification as well as the creation of regular CSS provider meetings.  We also saw the local authority listening to providers queries which resulted inmany changes to both the documents themselves as well as the timelines (the original launch of the tender was due to be spring 2016). Despite the additional time provided by the delay discussions and information on key areas in relation to how the rec-commissioning will affect the current packages of support and price had been lacking through the process.  Unfortunately, whilst details on the pricing has been released as part of the tender launch, concerns around how the pricing structure was calculated and howthis will affect current service users has not been expanded upon in any great detail and remain a key concern for providers.  Indeed it has left many existing providers questioning whether they can submit a bid without the required clarity especially given the time pressures - the deadline for submission of tenders is 21ST October 2016.

Following the concerns raised by its membership (which accounts for around 60% of the current services commissioned), Care and Support West has held meetings with its membership and is currently liaising with the local authority officials to voice their concerns.  Care and Support West has also commissioned its business partner Quality Solicitors Burroughs Day to undertake a critique of the Councils tender and consultation process with particular reference to how the current process supports (or not) the Councils Care Act responsibilities.  We wait to see whether further deliberation within the local authority following the work done by Care and Support West will bring further clarity.  Most providers will hope that it does.