I 'found' this about 'Civil Society' What does anyone think?
"Civil Society Organisations ? Consultation.
- The first issue is the EU Procurement Regulations. I know that in many cases the services required will be exempt but:
? For those that are not the barrier to small local organisations will be insuperable. We are already seeing some of the larger organisations pulling away from local groups because of the need to organise nationally to deal with contracting issues, which kind of runs against the spirit of what the Government is trying to achieve
? Even where the Regulations do not apply most of the commissioning organisations ? councils, health authorities and the like have procurement guidelines that are based on the EU principles and the kinds of procurement procedures are going to be difficult for smaller groups to manage
? The de minimis levels are very low so very few non-exempt services are likely to be small enough to avoid the Regulations.
These problems would probably be irrelevant to the French but the UK?s compliance record is just too good. If this going to be made to work the Government are going to have to draw the boundaries for exemption very wide, actively sponsor different procurement practices and press for the de minis limits in certain service categories to be raised sharply. Ideally they need to find a way of exempting some kinds of provider from the Regulations.
- Some years ago I did some pro bono work for Age Concern on a contract with a County Council related to a visiting scheme for elderly people. The trial had gone well with volunteers doing the visiting and a small control centre managing the operation. The cost was about 6 pence per visit. By the time we had worked through the performance standards and penalties the cost was up to £1.50 per visit and rising fast. In the end my clients had to pull out. The problem was that the commissioning Council could not understand that we had no contractual lien on volunteers. If they don?t turn up you cannot sack them! We needed so many employed staff to cover the potential non-availability of volunteers that the cost base just got out of control. They, of course, had the problem of accountability for the performance of the service. It was a stand-off position with no real possibility of resolution.
The resolution of the matter depended upon the Commissioners understanding that a cheap 95% service was better than an expensive 100% one ? and their clients? acceptance of the lower performance standard plus it required them to understand that large areas of their contract provisions could not be legally enforced.
- I have some direct experience of the problems that many of the large charity commercial organisations are facing. My wife works for a charity shop in a voluntary capacity. She is increasing irked by being treated as an employee and receives ?instructions? and ?directives? and ?requirements?. The organisations need to be ?commercial? is driving away the resources that generate the income.
- I have very direct experience of one valuable service provision that is being strangled to death. My daughter operates a home-based child minding service (rated exceptional in all categories by Ofsted in the last two inspections). She has previously had to compete with provisions supported by education authorities. The problem in this business is that the staff to child ratios are absolute and very fixed whereas the attendance of children is very inconsistent; two days per week, half days, two two-hour sessions per week, etc. and the children come and go as their parents circumstances change. The ?supported? organisations have been able to deal with this by staffing for the maximum and losing money whenever the setting was underused. Now many of the ?supported? nurseries are being closed because of the cost of funding the support. The private sector, such as my daughter, ought to see this as an opportunity but it is not. It just makes available further demands from clients who are even less consistent in their needs for provision. How on earth do you staff for a child who is being supported under Sure Start for two, two-hour sessions per week.
When you add in the fact that there are three inspecting and regulatory organisations, new and onerous regulation appearing with increasing frequency, a move towards making a degree level qualification an entry qualification for the ?profession? and the commercial reality that in our part of the country the returns only justify wages fractionally above minimum wage even for qualified staff, the whole thing is an economic nonsense. Childcare place provision is being lost at an accelerating rate. K manages to get by only because my wife is a qualified assistant that she can draw on, on an ad hoc basis and a husband who does not work (health) but can step in.
Despite the fact that K?s operation is rated outstanding in every category (very rare) and has regularly been asked by radio and television to appear to comment on changes in regulation and provision, she has never once been consulted in advance of any change in rule or regulation ? not even as part of a general consultation request.
- What is needed is for the Government to stop ?firing from the hip? and start, on a service-by-service basis, to consult properly and thoroughly with the existing and potential provider base. Then it needs to look at how services can be procured in ways that are appropriate to the selected kinds of provider and, if necessary, reserve procurements to those sectors. Then it needs to model the costs and incomes to ensure that the providers can provide at the incomes available. The mantra has to be that you can only get service from a willing and viable provider sector. At present they appear to be assuming that there is some vast body of untapped resource that will be prepared to give their time for nothing whilst accepting the imposts of ever increasing control and regulation operated by people who are insensitive to the impact of their activities on the motivation of the givers or the viability of the organisations they regulate.
Above all they need in some way to get the commissioners of these services to understand that they are not doing the third sector and the ?cottage? private sector a favour by offering the work. On the contrary it is the providers who hold the power in this game. They can and will take their ball on go home."