DDN November 2022 DDN Nov_2022 | Page 13

‘ Commissioning is always more effective when there ’ s genuine engagement with the people the services are commissioned on behalf of .’
‘ A lot [ of LEROs ] are doing a huge amount of work that goes unrecognised and unfunded .’
‘... make sure there ’ s a requirement within service specifications for contracts that LEROs are an active part of .’
‘ On the provider side it ’ s really about trying to get the balance right between nurturing and being able to share power .’
Howard .’ It was very clear how they ’ d done it – the service users had set a question , they were presented to , they were facilitated to ask questions , and they were supported by the commissioners . There have been pockets of best practice like that in tendering for the entire time I ’ ve been doing it , but hopefully with the new commissioning standard it will become the norm .’
Another example was a bid where providers were asked to describe their offer to service users , which would then be marked by the service users themselves . ‘ Instead of trying to give service users the whole bid and them having to get to grips with everything that ’ s going on , responses described the overall offer , assessing whether the service model would appeal to them directly ,’ he says . ‘ That felt like really good practice .’
Commissioning is always more effective when there ’ s genuine engagement with the people the services are commissioned on behalf of , rather than an ‘ ivory tower ’ approach , Hager states . This means it ’ s vital to avoid service users being told ‘ we ’ d like you to be involved ’ and then nothing is done about facilitating how that can realistically happen – ‘ the structures of meetings , or enabling people to participate . It ’ s not easy , but there ’ s a wealth of experience out there depending
on who you work with and how . Engagement has to be meaningful .’
One of the things her council did that had the biggest impact – ‘ and I had to be convinced to do it ’ – was creating jobs for experts by experience , she says . ‘ We created 12 in the first instance , as sessional workers to be properly employed by the council so that they can contribute to any agenda as part of co-production and collaboration – not just the drugs and alcohol agenda – and be properly paid and supported to do so . It ’ s been the most impactful thing we ’ ve done to date .’
LOCAL LEROS Another very obvious way to put people with lived experience centre stage is via lived experience recovery organisations ( LEROs ). However there aren ’ t very many areas where
‘ Unless it ’ s black and white in the bid – or you go to a presentation and you ’ re presenting to service users – it can be hard to know what their levels of involvement are .’
the local authority has a direct arrangement with the local LERO , says chief executive of Recovery Connections , Dot Smith . ‘ We ’ re really one of the fortunate ones because we ’ ve been directly commissioned by the local authority for six years .’ This is partly down to the way the tender was put out , with the commissioner separating the recovery element of the contract , but her organisation also has a very strong relationship with Change Grow Live in other areas where it works on specific parts of contracts – a more typical arrangement .
CLERO is also developing its own quality standard for services , with the website due to go live soon . ‘ There are different sized LEROS nationally , but a lot of them are doing phenomenal work without any payment ,’ says Smith . ‘ We ’ ve developed some core standards about what a LERO is , and the quality framework we ’ re working on will fit behind that . Because if you want to be commissioned you ’ ve got to jump through a few hoops and fulfil a fair few criteria for a local authority to be able to release any sort of funding .’
Many LEROs won ’ t be in a place where they can do that , she says , at least not yet . ‘ There ’ s a lot of indirect costs if you want to position yourself as an organisation to take on a local authority contract – things like insurance are really expensive – and you
need an infrastructure to be able to deal with money that comes with obligations and governance .’ All of this means that a lot of support and capacity building will be needed to develop the LERO landscape to a point where it ’ s the norm to have well-funded , wellequipped LEROs in each area .
Back in 2018 , chief executive of Build on Belief Tim Sampey told DDN that peer-led organisations with strong track records were often excluded from tendering unless they subcontracted their services to a large provider , or else were levered in as ‘ added value ’ with specifications ‘ so fuzzy as to become meaningless ’ ( https :// www . drinkanddrugsnews . com / the-right-focus /).
RECOGNITION So have LEROs been marginalised up to now ? ‘ I think we have , for sure ,’ says Smith . ‘ A lot are doing a huge amount of work that goes unrecognised and unfunded .’ The issue isn ’ t so much that commissioners haven ’ t been taking LEROs seriously enough , but rather that they often don ’ t understand the concept , she points out . ‘ That ’ s not a criticism – it ’ s purely because there are still a lot of areas where there isn ’ t a mobilised recovery community doing this stuff , so why would they know ?’
‘ Contracts tend to be for whole systems , and that ’ s not the offer