Commissioning is at a crossroads. Hit by a succession of outsourcing scandals, the use of big contracts and growth in new payment mechanisms have come under increased scrutiny from politicians and the media, as well as watchdogs such as the National Audit Office. This landscape is not only increasingly complex – in terms of new funding, financing, partnering and payment models, as well as the complexity of meeting multiple presenting needs of service users – but it is also in a state of flux. A new joint report by Collaborate and the Institute for Government, Beyond Big Contracts: commissioning public services for better outcomes, has identified three broad trends arising from implementation of the government’s Open Public Services agenda that threaten to undermine the improved outcomes for users and communities that the policy is designed to achieve. These trends relate to the shift to outcome-based contracts, the transfer of risk and scope for innovation, and the changing nature of the relationships between commissioners, providers and service users. Whilst these trends undoubtedly present opportunities for these three groups of stakeholders they also generate significant challenges. For example: The shift to outcomes-based contracts poses problems in how to best understand and measure […]

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