Poor commissioning practices hitting smaller charities

The survival of smaller charities is being threatened by ‘shockingly complicated and inappropriate’ commissioning and contracting processes on the part of central and local government, according to a report from the Lloyds Bank Foundation.

Examples of poor commissioning practice include forced mergers in order to be able to bid for work, as well as ‘irrelevant requirements’ and poor scrutiny, says Commissioning in crisis. The report is based on the experiences of organisations taking part in 120 tenders and ‘shines a spotlight on a catalogue of errors and unacceptable hoops small charities are forced to jump through to be able to continue supporting local people in need’, says the foundation.

Although acknowledging that commissioners themselves face pressure from smaller budgets and cuts in staff, poor commissioning practices are widespread and are themselves ‘adding cost, inefficiency and complexity’, it claims. The report wants to see urgent reform to make sure small organisations can compete for contracts ‘on a level playing field’. This should include simplifying processes, improving collaboration and an increased focus on ‘the long-term value of effective service delivery’ rather than on short-term cost savings, it says. Central government should also be improving transparency, challenging poor practice and holding commissioners to account.

‘We are alarmed at the scale of the commissioning crisis which is engulfing small charities and threatening their very survival,’ said Lloyds Bank Foundation chief executive Paul Streets. ‘Small charities are struggling to respond to bureaucratic, complex and inappropriate requests by commissioners. When it comes to commissioning services, it seems common sense has failed. It’s not just charities that stand to lose, but communities and individuals in need.’

wrong-wayReport at www.lloydsbankfoundation.org.uk