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Transforming the market for social care paper 2: a model for market facilitation

Briefing paper | June 2009

This paper sets out what local authorities and PCTs need to do to make the transition from a largely responsive role as purchasers of social care services to more far-sighted, proactive market facilitators, in the context of the drive to personalisation of services and the consequent shift in direct purchasing power away from the commissioning organisation.

Defining ‘facilitation’ as the process by which commissioners ensure sufficient appropriate provision is available, and at the right price, to achieve desired outcomes now and in the future, the paper sets out a step-by-step model that breaks down this overall objective into three areas of activity:

  • Market intelligence – understanding supply and demand in the market as it currently exists, and the shape the market will have to take to meet current and predicted needs;
  • Market structuring – using this intelligence to develop the commissioning organisation’s strategic approach to involvement in the market; and
  • Market intervention – where necessary, intervening in the market, for example to fill gaps in provision, achieve specific outcomes for users, or support small organisations in entering the market.

Within this framework, the paper provides a detailed breakdown of specific actions targeted at effecting a transformation in the supply side of social care: guiding the commissioning authority through the process of turning a basic joint strategic needs assessment into a regularly updated, evidence-based, market-position statement; discussing that statement with, and disseminating it among, providers; reviewing internal procedures such as the tendering process; engaging in open dialogue with providers over their frustrations; supporting vulnerable firms or directing them towards third-party business support as appropriate; encouraging social enterprises; and ensuring service users receive the best available information on service quality and have their voice heard where provision is deemed substandard.