Commissioning – Children's Workforce Guide to Qualifications and Training

Charlotte Goddard
Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Commissioning is an increasingly key role within children’s services, but the way children’s services are commissioned has been the subject of growing scrutiny. The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, for example, called for a review of the social care commissioning and procurement system in a 2019 report. Commissioners require a wide range of skills, including understanding of the children’s services sector, project management, research and analytical skills, communication skills, admin, procurement and contracting.

In some teams, a commissioner might work across a number of children’s services, while others concentrate on one area such as care packages for looked-after children or special educational needs and disabilities. Commissioning managers may take responsibility for a range of projects, while those in support roles may commission smaller, more straightforward projects or provide data analysis.

Routes into the job include social work, teaching and procurement. Partnership working – with providers, local authority colleagues and increasingly service recipients – is essential.

“You need to be curious about people and open to doing things differently, with the flexibility to think outside the box,” says NEF Consulting associate Helen Sharp.

NEF Consulting offers workshops and briefings on commissioning for outcomes, co-production and social value. Training can be delivered online or on-site and can be adapted to focus on children’s services. “We focus on involving those who are using the services and, with Helen’s help, we are developing a new training offer specifically on community engagement,” says Mary-Louise Nash, head of marketing and training at NEF Consulting.

The Institute of Public Care (IPC) can tailor its four-day course to focus on children’s services. IPC can deliver the course in-house, or individuals can book onto an “open” course. Participants can choose to accredit their learning on this course and gain a certificate of credit from Oxford Brookes University at additional cost.

The Public Service Transformation Academy delivers the government’s Commissioning Academy. Each academy takes place in London over five days spread over four months, and gives participants access to experts, facilitators and action-learning coaches. National Commissioning Academies are run three times a year, while local academies focus on a particular place or theme.

The Virtual Commissioning Academy, launched in June 2020, delivers the same content as the National Academy in two hour-long sessions per week over four months, using webinars, video-conferencing and a virtual learning environment.

The Commissioning Academy is also launching a two-day commissioning simulation learning experience developed by Fractal Consulting. Participants manage challenges including decisions around collaboration with other services. Another new programme is Commissioning 101, designed to equip entry-level commissioning officers, procurement professionals and line managers with an understanding of the principles and key tools of commissioning.

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