Commissioning in crisis

Monday, 12 December 2016 - 1:23pm

Local Charities Day is on Friday 16 December, which is fast approaching. A day that the Minister for Civil Society says is about celebrating local charities and community groups. 


At Lloyds Bank Foundation for England & Wales, we echo that sentiment. Championing small and medium-sized charities is part of our bread and butter. But as many in the sector well know, if we really want to do something meaningful to support smaller charities, we have to reform commissioning.

Commissioning in Crisis, a new report we have recently published, demonstrates why. It takes an in-depth look at 120 tender processes and the experiences of charities participating in them. The results are staggering.

The depth and breadth of the challenges charities face in commissioning, clearly show that poor commissioning practice is not limited to a few bad examples. It stretches beyond geography and sector. And homelessness services are not immune – in fact, 10% of all the evidence collected in our research relates directly to homelessness services.

If you work for a small or medium-sized charity and have responded to a public-sector contract, no doubt the experiences in the report will be familiar to you. Perhaps there is some perverse comfort in knowing you’re not alone in your negative experiences, but in essence the results are concerning. It’s clear that change is needed - and at every level.

In response, the report makes recommendations for commissioners, central government and the sector. It has to start with a better understanding of what is needed, where and how. It isn’t about spending more money (we all know resources are tight), but about spending money in the best way to achieve the greatest long term value.

The Minister for Civil Society has made a commitment to unpicking the barriers that prevent smaller charities from playing an effective role in improving public services. This report provides answers to his challenge. We’re calling on him, and commissioners more widely to turn these recommendations into actions. Small and medium-sized charities offer the solutions to some of society’s toughest problems and systems must enable them to deliver them.

Blog by Caroline Howe - Lloyds Bank FoundationPolicy and National Programmes Manager