[We note with interest that at the meeting Steve Cardownie, SNP council spokesperson expressed surprise that out of 44 involved council officials no one could be found who should take responsibility. Mr Cardownie said perhaps that standards of blame were lower in the public sector than in the private sector. ]
In terms of the report:
· We welcome all the suggestions for better training and better procedures.
· We welcome the decision to wait for new guidance from the Scottish Government before proceeding further.
· We welcome the proposal to issue 18 month contracts to create a period of stability and assurance.
· We welcome the proposal to transfer learning disability service contracts to the Health And Social Care Department
We are sorry that councillors were not adequately briefed by officials on the matter and that they had to get their information from informal sources such as our own newsletters. We note that the report states that the only elected official to receive regular briefings was the Convenor of the Health and Social Care Committee and are surprised that he did not share this information with other councillors who shared the legal responsibility with him for these decisions.
Decisions were to be rushed through in October last year because of “urgency” without proper oversight. Yet that oversight was needed. It is worth noting that Annex 4 identifies, at least 27 flaws in the conduct of the tender process. 27 flaws is a lot.
Many of the people LDAS has spoken to in the last few days have a concern that nothing in the Lessons Learned report will stop a similar thing happening in the future. Despite the growing number voice urging caution through the summer of 2009 and into the autumn, council officials and leading councillors tried to drive the tender report through. Attempts by service users and advocacy organisations to express concerns were dismissed as the “bias and self interest of service providers” - a phrase still repeated in the Lesson Learned report Annex 3.
All complex and challenging processes can produce problems and the idea that better training and procedures can prevent this in every situation is fanciful. A mistake in a good process can be forgiven. 27 mistakes in a bad process, would not be forgiven.
Significantly two other reports were heard on the same day. One proposes that 18 month contracts be issued to all support providers at rates that are fairly agreed. Direct Payments will be at the same level. This will bring back stability to all those affected for the next period.
The second transfers most contracts for services for people with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and hearing impairments over to the Health and Social Care Department. The Health and Social Care Department has always been far more concerned about quality of services and long term relationships than other department have been. So this is also good for the future.
While the Lessons Learned does not clear up everything or make everything right, overall the council is taking big steps to putting the final outcome for people who use care and support services right. We believe that fuller engagement with service users and carers in looking at quality of services through the outcomes they deliver for vulnerable people is the way forward. Working harder on understanding what “quality” means for those that use services is the most important thing that they can do now.
The future should not be about how to or whether to procure but how to provide quality services that meet what people want from them in flexible ways that allow other resources to be used to other people still waiting for help