The Employment Related Service Association (ERSA) has launched its Better Commissioning for Local Skills and Employment: ERSA Guide for Commissioners in Local Authorities at a roundtable event for local authority leaders at the Labour Party Conference.  The guide has been developed with a view to supporting local commissioners avoid the many pitfalls of commissioning and to take advantage of the devolution agenda thus enabling the best services to be delivered for local jobseekers.

With central government set to spend less on specialist employment services and in line with the devolution agenda,  local authorities and other commissioners are likely to take a larger role in the commissioning of employment and skills support.  The aim is to achieve more integrated and holistic services, but poor commissioning risks undermining such ambitions. Many local commissioners already achieve high quality results, but across the UK, the picture is inconsistent, and this is enhanced by increasingly complex commissioning arrangements.

ERSA members, 75% of whom are not for profit, have delivered a wide range of both national and local government schemes over many years, whether commissioned by Westminster, devolved authorities or local government, and is able to share its wealth of experience of how unintended consequences can flow from decisions made with the best intentions.


Case Study: UnitingCare partnership

The UnitingCare partnership was commissioned by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG to provide 5 years of integrated community support from April 2015, however errors at the commissioning stage foundered the project after just 8 months. Key problems included the contract not being clear about the expectation that providers would invest their own funds in transformation, the scope of the services to be involved, and data provided by the CCG being extremely limited (meaning that providers could not accurately price their bids). When UnitingCare was awarded the contract there were 71 cost and clarification issues still unresolved. Additional funding was needed as a result, and when it was not forthcoming the partnership collapsed at an estimated cost of £8.9m to signatories.


To ensure that local commissioners can succeed with the opportunities presented by devolution, achieving best value for money as well as managing risk, the guide includes key advice on:

Commenting, Kirsty Mchugh, Chief Executive of ERSA, said:

“Jobseekers deserve the very best services and we’re delighted so many local authorities want to commission employment support.  However, too often, we see the best intentions undermined by lack of dialogue, ill thought through design choices or poor processes. That isn’t in the interests of local commissioners, providers of services or jobseekers themselves.

“Our guide is aimed at increasing knowledge and sharing best practice so that local commissioners can commission well.  With central Government set to spend less on specialist employment provision in future, it’s important that local provision aimed at filling gaps is of the very highest quality.  Ultimately, our sector and local authorities have a shared interest in ensuring that jobseekers have the best possible quality employment support, which meets the needs of local residents, businesses and communities.”

Click here to download the guide.