Opening up Social Care to Small Businesses

Social care, at £14.6bn a year, accounts for the largest single proportion of Government procurement spend, according to the most recent available data. And departmentally, most of that spend lies with local English councils.

It’s a huge market for private suppliers, but winning such contracts has traditionally been difficult. Complex procurement processes, and extensive criteria, favour larger companies - shutting out smaller providers. There is much to be gained by opening up the procurement process to SMEs.
Smaller, local, providers can be better tuned-in to the specific needs of the communities they serve, and deliver better, more personalised, standards of care. If it matters to an individual that someone of the same sex and ethnic background visits them, someone who speaks their language and understands their taste in food for example, a specialist may be better placed to cater for those needs. Also, as smaller providers tend to operate on smaller margins, they can be more cost-effective.

Austerity and budget cuts, combined with demands for better services, have led to change. The Government has been keen to encourage the use of technologies to innovate and make budgets go further, and as one of the larger councils in England with a procurement budget of £1bn, Birmingham City Council has used Matrix SCM’s procurement platform to introduce changes to the way it procures social care services.

In addition, by using new technologies, Birmingham City Council was able to overcome a number of long-standing issues that prevented SMEs from effectively bidding for contracts. The council integrated a flexible yet consistent system over which it had full control - to benchmark suppliers’ performance and manage them on an on-going basis, whilst ensuring the council’s rigorous policy standards were applied throughout the process.
Using an automated process based on its own internal home support scoring system, the council first created an initial shortlist. Eligible applications are assessed by brokers who review and update scoring, before awarding contracts based on quality & value for money.

By teasing out the unique differences between providers and specifying personal aspects, Birmingham City Council has moved from a generic checklist approach to procurement - based on tasks and timescales - to focus on the softer targets and more specialist requirements.
This streamlined system has increased the number of applications, broadened the range of services on offer, introduced personalised services and resulted in around 12% of cost savings.

Julian Young is SEO of Matrix SCM

The Municipal Year Book holds the details of thousands of social care proffessionals. For more details see