What is commissioning?
Commissioning can seem complex. The purpose of this article is to define commissioning, describe each stage of the process and show you how C3SC can support you through each stage.
Commissioning is quite simply the process the public uses to decide which service or products (it buys in or delivers itself ) are required to respond to the needs of local people. It involves making decisions about the capacity, location, cost and quality of services, as well as who will deliver them and how.
The Commissioning Cycle
The Commissioning Cycle (see diagram) is a process originally developed by the Institute of Public Care and now adopted by Welsh Government, local authorities and the health service. The process is a set of steps that make up the commissioning. All four steps are equally important and there is a focus on needs across agencies, with an underlying principle that there will be ongoing dialogue with service users, carers, and providers, including third sector organisations.
The diagram above can be quite confusing, so let’s break it down further. First, we will look at the
purpose of each stage of the commissioning cycle.
And what about the third sector’s contribution to each stage of the commissioning cycle? Why is it important for you to be involved at each stage? And what is C3SC doing to support your involvement?
At the ‘Analyse’ stage you can:
• Contribute to needs analysis, identifying outcomes and service mapping;
• Provide feedback on the vision, needs assessment, accuracy of gap analysis;
• Provide information on current services;
• Provide advice about models of best practice and innovation;
• Provide advocacy for hard-to-reach groups;
• Contribute to planning and delivering stakeholder events.
• Provide you with development support through our Third Sector Officers (TSOs) who can help you look at the information you gather and how you can best present it as robust business intelligence;
• Deliver Monitoring and Evaluation training and RBA training;
• Hold consultation events and viewpoint sessions on the new Older People’s Commissioning Strategy through the Health and Social Care Network and the new Older People’s Third Sector Reference Group, which we are setting up with Age Concern;
• Always send the outcomes of our consultations and events to the relevant service planners;
• Push for meaningful involvement of the third sector in the development of public sector commissioning plans – for example, we sit on Cardiff Council’s Joint Commissioning Framework Project Board, advocating for the sector at all times.
At the ‘Plan’ stage you can:
• Provide feedback on the priorities set out in commissioning plans;
• Contribute to the market plan – what is your knowledge of the market?
• Contribute to developing service specifications, including soft outcomes and social benefits;
• Facilitate service user involvement in the development of service specifications;
• Contribute to developing funding and procurement plans, for example, ‘make or buy decisions’ (providing a service in-house or buying the service in, including grant or contract processes and terms).
• Hold consultation events and viewpoint sessions so that the sector has a strong voice in the development of commissioning plans;
• Support our new Third Sector Representatives Peer Partnership Council to feed back to the relevant strategic partnerships on whether or not new commissioning plans and third sector involvement have been successful;
• Continue to lobby for grants as a key part of the commissioning process – for capacity building,
delivery and market shaping.
At the ‘Secure Services’ stage you can:
• Develop tenders to bid for contracts;
• Make a grant application;
• Contribute to advertising funding / tendering opportunities;
• Suggest how monitoring and performance can be improved;
• Participate in tender evaluations;
• Suggest joint training / secondments / job exchanges with commissioners.
• Provide training in developing tenders to bid for contracts;
• Provide quality funding advice, including how to develop a full cost recovery budget (contact your
• Provide one-to-one support on planning for outcomes, and we’re delivering training on ‘Outcomes Planning’ in the next training programme;
• Run regular grant application surgeries (see our website for more details).
At the ‘Review’ stage you can:
• Contribute to discussion on service performance;
• Contribute to ideas on monitoring outcomes;
• Advocate for wider stakeholder involvement;
• Contribute to the review of services;
• Contribute to the evaluation of overall commissioning strategies;
• Contribute to local scrutiny arrangements.
• Facilitate third sector involvement in the review of services;
• Provide training on using RBA as a performance management tool;
• Recruit and support Third Sector Representatives on Cardiff Integrated Partnership Board scrutiny
• Keep the Compact in mind during all these activities!
Other useful information
- Take a look at Cardiff Council's procurement web page.
- Sell2Wales is an initiative from the Welsh Government helping SMEs work successfully with public sector clients. Since inception, Sell2Wales has advertised over £5 billion of notices and, with a growing number of public sector bodies advertising through it, tenders are more accessible. This site allows you to promote your company, contact registered public sector organisations, seek advice and much much more.
- Value Wales has devised the Procurement Route Planner (PRP) that seeks to promote a structured, step-by-step approach and encourage a consistent best practice to procurement throughout the Welsh public sector.
- Keep up to date on Families First commissioning by visiting our Families First web page.
- There's more helpful information in the 'Commissioning' Document Library on our website.
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