I managed to visit 24 services last week and saw a number of things which impressed me. I thought the Macmillan coffee morning at Goldstone Crescent in Brighton was a real success with a good turnout. The people we support and their staff team went to a lot of trouble and baked some fabulous cakes. I am always pleased when the people we support take an active role in raising money for charity, rather than just being the passive recipient of welfare benefits. I was also very impressed by the ‘wall of achievement’ that has been set up at our 283 Dyke Road service in Brighton. Whenever one of the tenants living there achieves something important, it is put up on the wall of achievements to celebrate their success. Talking to the people who live there, it is really important to them to have that recognition. Our Chetwynd Road supported living service in Portsmouth does something similar.
Periodically in my blog, I have a bit of a rant about Local Authority procurement and I’m afraid this is going to be another of those occasions. I visited a property last week which I thought would be very suitable for refurbishment for supported living flats. We have a housing partner who is potentially interested in buying the flats and I understand from the Local Authority concerned that they have a need for that type of service. However, their procurement department made it clear that the choice of provider would have to go through their framework agreement and there would be no certainty that we would be selected. We have come across this procurement-led approach before and the reality is that it will put providers off going to the effort of identifying and developing services if there is no certainty at the end of the day that they will be the chosen provider. Given that there is inadequate provision in the country and housing associations, who are the main providers of accommodation for supported living, lack investment capital and in some cases have chosen to focus on general needs rather than special need housing, it seems to me that Local Authorities are shooting themselves in the foot by taking an overly rigid view. Other Local Authorities that we deal with are much more pragmatic, if they have a need for a service, they are very happy to support us developing one. In practice, this means that those Authorities, who take a more pragmatic view, are more likely to have new service provision developed than those dominated by overly dogmatic procurement processes. In my view, the procurement process has too much power in some Local Authorities.
On a more positive note, I am pleased to report that CMG, along with 4 other providers have made a donation to enable the establishment of People First England. We are really hopeful that this will grow into a national voice for people with learning disabilities including, hopefully, a parliament covering the whole country where people we support can represent their peers and speak to government and other influential bodies about what people with learning disabilities need and want.