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 .’
DOT SMITH
‘... 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 .’
KIM HAGER
SARAH ALLEN
CRAIG MIDDLETON
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 .’
GRAHAM HOWARD
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
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