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  • Author or Editor: Alison Body x
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Commissioning remains the dominant process by which England’s state and third sector financial relationships are managed, attracting much criticism and debate. In response, the Civil Society Strategy () has called for a renewed focus on collaborative commissioning arrangements. However, the absence of much comment on commissioners suggests we have not paid enough attention to the role of the individuals who manage these processes. Semi-structured interviews with 15 commissioners, responsible for children’s preventative services, provide new empirical evidence exploring commissioners’ lived experiences. Drawing on the notion of vertical discretion, which is an individual’s freedom from external control, versus horizontal discretion, which is an individual’s freedom for decision making, this article explores the space for commissioners’ individual discretion within the commissioning process. Findings highlight that greater consideration of the role discretion has in commissioning processes can add some insight into how more collaborative commissioning arrangements may be achieved at a local level.

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Chapter 5 concentrates on voices from the frontline and their lived experiences. Within this chapter we focus on the lived realities of commissioning. Commissioning, the central process for managing relationships between the voluntary sector and the state, is one of the most contentious issues for modern day children’s charities. Early intervention and preventative services for children, sit central to this debate – these statutory services at the heart of local government are often commissioned out to voluntary sector organisations for delivery, and form the very focus of this book. We argue that Commissioning in its current form is failing; it threatens the very survival of local voluntary sector organisations seeking to support children and young people, and, rightly so, is coming under increasing scrutiny. High profile cases such as the demise of the charity Kids Company, led by the charismatic Camila Batmanghelidjh, have brought the relationship between the State and sector to the fore of public and academic debate. In this chapter we begin to unpick some of that debate, examining what has happened over the past decade, charities experiences and how we may potentially move forwards.

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In chapter 6 we explore the impact of commissioning and policy changes on early intervention and preventative services for children delivered by the charitable sector. The definition of early intervention and preventative services is highly contested and politicised within policy and commissioning processes. This reflects an ongoing debate regarding the shifting paradigm of prevention. As the commissioning narrative has developed, there has been an overall disengagement between the voluntary sector providers and State. As the charitable sector is increasingly exposed to intensifying marketization, polarisation of relationships increases. We identify here three ‘types’ of organisational responses to this ever-changing environments; conformers – those charities who align themselves close to the State and regularly reinterpret their mission to fit State logic; the outliers – those charities which reject State approaches to early intervention and seek to deliver services completely independently of the State; and the intermediaries – those charities which walk between conformity and dissent, working with the State when necessary or too their advantage, and walking away when not. We discuss how these types fundamentally alter children’s charities perspectives and experiences of commissioning and the impact this has on their wider work.

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Chapter 7 focuses on how some children’s charities are not just surviving in this complex environment but indeed thriving. As the commissioning culture has matured, so too have the responses from children’s charities. We have seen two major opposing schools of thought manifest themselves. One, often driven by politicians and social policy decision makers which advocates for the commissioning and competition agenda as increasing choice and diversifying services. Another, often pushed by academics and practitioners, which is more critical arguing that commissioning is leading to the marketization and privatisation of services. Many children’s charities, and indeed Commissioners, feel inhibited by these difficulties, however we also identify a group of children’s charities, supported by particular Commissioners, who ‘play the game’, reinterpreting rules, and at times breaking rules, to secure what they consider the best outcomes for children. As a result, they successfully negotiate contracts to their advantage or even bypass commissioning processes altogether, to secure a mutually developed contract. This requires a relational approach in which some children’s charities deploy a range of tactics to secure additional advantage, whilst some Commissioners ‘bend the rules’ to facilitate advantage for certain children’s charities who they believe will deliver a ‘better’ service for children.

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Chapter 8, the conclusion of this book discusses the potential way forwards. Children’s services are in crisis and change is an imperative. Traditional institutions such as health, education and social care, are in crisis. Whilst this break down of traditional institutions and subsequent blurring of the boundaries creates significant problems for vulnerable children, it now provides the ‘action imperative’ to develop innovative commissioning responses. We therefore conclude this chapter by proposing commissioning approaches which step outside of the traditional and policy ‘rule bound’ boundaries to find collective solutions. Reflecting on the policy drivers outlined in the UK Civil Society Strategy 2018, collaborative commissioning as a concept is receiving increased attention from policy makers, practitioners and academics alike. As an emerging idea however it is still an unknown. In this concluding chapter we discuss the potential of collaborative commissioning as a way forwards for children’s early intervention services and the continued unknowns surrounding it.

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This introductory chapter sets out the context and significance of this book. Focusing on a decade of austerity, 2008-2018, the challenges facing children’s charities are effectively pushing the sector to crisis point. State funding is reducing whilst demand for services is increasing. This chapter provides an overview of how charities have sought to navigate these testing times.

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Following a decade of radical change in policy and funding in children’s early intervention services and with the role of the third sector under increased scrutiny, this timely book assesses the shifting interplay between state provision and voluntary organisations delivering interventions for children, young people and their families. Using one-hundred voices from charities and their partners on the frontline, this book provides vivid accounts of the lived experiences of charitable groups, offering key insights into the impact of recent social policy decisions on their work. Telling the story of how the landscape of children’s early intervention services has changed over the last decade, it provides crucial lessons for future policy whilst demonstrating the immeasurable value of voluntary organisations working in this challenging terrain.

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Author:

Following a decade of radical change in policy and funding in children’s early intervention services and with the role of the third sector under increased scrutiny, this timely book assesses the shifting interplay between state provision and voluntary organisations delivering interventions for children, young people and their families. Using one-hundred voices from charities and their partners on the frontline, this book provides vivid accounts of the lived experiences of charitable groups, offering key insights into the impact of recent social policy decisions on their work. Telling the story of how the landscape of children’s early intervention services has changed over the last decade, it provides crucial lessons for future policy whilst demonstrating the immeasurable value of voluntary organisations working in this challenging terrain.

Restricted access
Author:

Following a decade of radical change in policy and funding in children’s early intervention services and with the role of the third sector under increased scrutiny, this timely book assesses the shifting interplay between state provision and voluntary organisations delivering interventions for children, young people and their families. Using one-hundred voices from charities and their partners on the frontline, this book provides vivid accounts of the lived experiences of charitable groups, offering key insights into the impact of recent social policy decisions on their work. Telling the story of how the landscape of children’s early intervention services has changed over the last decade, it provides crucial lessons for future policy whilst demonstrating the immeasurable value of voluntary organisations working in this challenging terrain.

Restricted access
Author:

Following a decade of radical change in policy and funding in children’s early intervention services and with the role of the third sector under increased scrutiny, this timely book assesses the shifting interplay between state provision and voluntary organisations delivering interventions for children, young people and their families. Using one-hundred voices from charities and their partners on the frontline, this book provides vivid accounts of the lived experiences of charitable groups, offering key insights into the impact of recent social policy decisions on their work. Telling the story of how the landscape of children’s early intervention services has changed over the last decade, it provides crucial lessons for future policy whilst demonstrating the immeasurable value of voluntary organisations working in this challenging terrain.

Restricted access