Agenda item

Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) - Independent Expert Assessments

Surrey County Council must meet a range of statutory obligations to ensure that safeguarding and care planning decisions about children are made using high quality evidence suitable for the courts. A range of expert assessments are sometimes required to support this process. Approval is sought for the Council to award contracts to providers who have met criteria and that delegated approval be given to the Service Manager (Gateway to Resources) to ‘call off’ this DPS for the purchasing of relevant services. Delegated approval is also sought for the Director of Commissioning to include and award contracts to new providers on the DPS, as required.

 

NB: Part 2 Annex at item 11.

 

[The decisions on this item can be called in by the Children, Families, Lifelong Learning & Culture Select Committee]

 

 

Decision:

RESOLVED:

 

1.    That following consideration of the available options, the results of the procurement process, and commercially sensitive information provided in the Part 2 annex of the report, approval be given for the council to establish a Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) for the period 1 August 2019 – 31 July 2021 (with the option for extension up until, but not exceeding 31 July 2024).

 

2.    That authority be delegated to the Service Manager (Gateway to Resources) to ‘call off’ independent expert assessments and assessments for special guardianship orders from this DPS as required.

 

3.    That authority be delegated to the Director - Commissioning to add new providers onto the DPS for the Council as appropriate.

 

Reason for Decision:

 

As outlined in Child First Commissioning Intentions for Children in Surrey 2017-22, Surrey County Council is committed to ensuring children in Surrey get ‘the right help, care and protection at the right time so they can thrive’. Expert Witnesses and providers of Special Guardianship Order (SGO) Assessments inform the County Council in its care planning decisions.

 

The demand for statutory and in some cases court ordered assessments has increased at a rate which the Council is unable to meet within current in-house capacity.To cope with this pressure and ensure our statutory duties are met, the Children’s Social Care teams have been spot purchasing external experts to carry out SGO and expert assessments. However the spot purchasing arrangements are not sustainable and not achieving value for money. (This is unsustainable within the financial challenges that the Council is facing). The Council also acknowledges Ofsted’s findings (May 2018) which highlighted that there is an over-reliance on independent social workers and other expert witnesses in Surrey, and the quality, value for money and timeliness of assessments are key areas that need improving. 

 

The robust commissioning and contract management arrangements that will be put in place will ensure that expert assessments will be monitored more closely. Regular monitoring will have a strong focus on providers’ safeguarding policies and procedures and ensure that the safety of children, young people and vulnerable adults remains a priority at all times.

 

[The decisions on this item can be called in by the Children, Families, Lifelong Learning & Culture Select Committee]

 

Minutes:

The Cabinet Member for Children, Young People & Families introduced this report by setting out the Council’s obligations on child protection and the various tests and assessments that may be requested internally or by the courts.  She explained the benefits of the proposed dynamic purchasing system and how it linked to other changes in practice which included a reduced reliance on external expert assessments due to increased in-house skills.  The Cabinet Member went on to highlight areas of the report and the Equalities Impact Assessment as positive outcomes for children.  She informed Members that an email link would be sent out at the end of the week for the latest Ofsted and Children’s  Commissioner reports.

 

In response to Member questions the Cabinet Member for Children, Young People & families stated that:

·         She was confident that 40% reduction in the current number of assessments would be achieved over the coming financial year 2020/21 as an evidence based model of social work practice was being introduced along with a Gateway to Resources team to decide when external assessments would be needed.

·         That applicants for Special Guardianship Orders were responsible for arranging legal assessments.

·         Whilst there was some leeway in the financial figures the Council would only pay for what it used.

 

RESOLVED:

 

1.    That following consideration of the available options, the results of the procurement process, and commercially sensitive information provided in the Part 2 annex of the report, approval be given for the council to establish a Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) for the period 1 August 2019 – 31 July 2021 (with the option for extension up until, but not exceeding 31 July 2024).

 

2.    That authority be delegated to the Service Manager (Gateway to Resources) to ‘call off’ independent expert assessments and assessments for special guardianship orders from this DPS as required.

 

3.    That authority be delegated to the Director - Commissioning to add new providers onto the DPS for the Council as appropriate.

 

Reason for Decision:

 

As outlined in Child First Commissioning Intentions for Children in Surrey 2017-22, Surrey County Council is committed to ensuring children in Surrey get ‘the right help, care and protection at the right time so they can thrive’. Expert Witnesses and providers of Special Guardianship Order (SGO) Assessments inform the County Council in its care planning decisions.

 

The demand for statutory and in some cases court ordered assessments has increased at a rate which the Council is unable to meet within current in-house capacity.To cope with this pressure and ensure our statutory duties are met, the Children’s Social Care teams have been spot purchasing external experts to carry out SGO and expert assessments. However the spot purchasing arrangements are not sustainable and not achieving value for money. (This is unsustainable within the financial challenges that the Council is facing). The Council also acknowledges Ofsted’s findings (May 2018) which highlighted that there is an over-reliance on independent social workers and other expert witnesses in Surrey, and the quality, value for money and timeliness of assessments are key areas that need improving. 

 

The robust commissioning and contract management arrangements that will be put in place will ensure that expert assessments will be monitored more closely. Regular monitoring will have a strong focus on providers’ safeguarding policies and procedures and ensure that the safety of children, young people and vulnerable adults remains a priority at all times.

 

[The decisions on this item can be called in by the Children, Families, Lifelong Learning & Culture Select Committee]

 

Supporting documents: