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Shifting the balance: significant progress

Steven has been Choice Support's CEO since 1991 and has worked with people with learning disabilities since 1974.

Just six months ago, in April 2016, Choice Support embarked upon an ambitious strategy to reengineer its core business and I was seconded for two years from my full time role as Chief Executive to lead a small team implementing our New Ways of Working (NWoW).

Fundamental to this strategy is refocusing our key customer relationships away from local authorities to direct relationships with disabled people and their families. 

Our NWoW have to work on two levels. The majority of Choice Support’s existing business is contracted directly with local authorities and a strategy to change the nature of these relationships was required. At the same time we needed a strategy to ensure that new business is contracted directly with the disabled person/family.

A final and the crucial consideration is that our NWoW must bring about demonstrable improvements in the lives of the disabled people we support, and, in times of austerity, ideally reduce costs and be financially viable for Choice Support.

Existing business

Choice Support and its charitable subsidiary The Lady Verdin Trust had more than £35 million of traditional contracts with local authorities for care and support. This business was vulnerable to the vagaries of local authority competitive tendering processes. One £6.5 million contract in London had recently been converted into 83 Individual Service Funds (ISFs)* meaning that each individual had control over their own budget. And whilst individuals can (and do) opt to change their provider organisation, the contract is removed from the competitive tendering arena. This work, including the quality benefits to individuals and the £1.79 million savings offered to the local authority, is described in detail in the independent research reports Better Lives and Better Nights produced by Bucks New University.

Choice Support’s decision to distance itself from competitive tendering had been publically announced three years earlier in my article Breaking the mould.

Since the launch of our NWoW earlier this year two further local authorities are fully signed up converting traditional contracts to ISFs meaning that soon 33% of our traditional business will no longer be subject to competitive tendering. And, most importantly, those people that we support will have much more control over their lives. We are well ahead of our target to have converted 50% of traditional contracts to ISFs by April 2018.

New business

We have adopted a twofold approach to securing new business directly with disabled people, families and carers. First, we have invested in developing our small Shared Lives scheme. Secondly, we have started to work directly and forge links with families including, for the first time, working with children.

So, is this approach working? Early indicators are very encouraging. As mentioned above we are ahead of our target to convert traditional contracts to ISFs, the Shared Lives Scheme is breaking even six months after injecting additional resources and our direct family work has £0.5 million of new work in the first six months of our NWoW.

Watch this space ...

Steven Rose, Chief Executive

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Tags in this document: Leadership Families Individual service funds

* For a definition of an Individual Service Fund I recommend Individual Service Funds (ISFs) and Contracting for Flexible Support - Practice guidance to support implementation of the Care Act 2014.

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