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Northamptonshire County Council establishes £500m procurement framework for children’s services, providing for nine councils in East Midlands - LGSS

Northamptonshire County Council establishes £500m procurement framework for children’s services, providing for nine councils in East Midlands

In February 2016, Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) collaborated with nine local authorities to establish the East Midlands Regional Children’s Framework Agreement (EMRCF).

Rather than rely on a typical open or restricted tender, NCC established their own Light Touch process based on a Dynamic Purchasing System to reduce costs and maintain high quality services for children and young adults in care.

The Challenge

Between 2012 and 2014, local authorities in the East Midlands saw a 42% increase in foster care, children’s homes and special education placements. Councils had to rely on external suppliers to provide placements, resulting in limited vetting and escalating costs.

In 2011, the East Midlands Framework had created efficiencies and savings for six local authorities. However, the new EMRCF framework would maximise the advantages of the Light Touch Regime (LTR), a more relaxed set of EU procurement regulations for services such as health and social care, published in 2015.

The EMRCF would:

  • scope a new model for services under the light touch regime
  • have a collective budget of £500m
  • include all nine East Midlands local authorities
  • include children’s homes and foster care services
  • exclude special educational placements
  • be hosted and managed by Northampton County Council (with support from LGSS)

The Solution

Using the LGSS procurement service, NCC invited tenders on behalf of the nine local authorities for a range of categories including children’s homes, fostering placements and provision for specialist and complex health needs.

The EMRCF had a degree of flexibility because of their remit under the light touch regime. The wider LGSS procurement team worked to establish contracts, define staff roles and draw up specifications according to the national standards and the business needs of the nine local authorities.

LGSS Procurement assessed interested suppliers according to original EMRCF elimination criteria. Successful suppliers, who best met the needs of the child or young person, would then compete for an individual EMRCF placement.

The EMRCF was ground-breaking in that the procurement framework did not follow the traditional tender process, but instead relied on LGSS’ own method of competitive assessment.

Competition involved a technical assessment, worth 60%, and a commercial assessment, worth 40%. The former measured criteria including the supplier’s Ofsted rating, service delivery, evidence based practice and questions from a panel of young people. A score of below 50% for the technical assessment could result in an immediate rejection from the tender.

Results                                               

The EMRCF launched in February 2016 and has seen 18 months of successful procurement for children’s services.

More suppliers are added to the EMRCF every year, with over 130 available to local authorities in 2016. As more suppliers join the framework, there is less need to spot purchase and costs are kept to a minimum.

Local authorities benefit from an increased knowledge of providers through shared experience, as well as the power to shape the market and dictate the quality and cost of services. 

The EMRCF will run annually, allowing new suppliers to compete for a placement and existing suppliers to enter different categories.

Next Steps

The EMRCF will run annually, allowing new suppliers to compete for a placement and existing suppliers to enter different categories.