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Tender Care

January 8, 2014

Yesterday, I wrote about the experience back in 2010 when the provision for Steven’s care was tendered out by Hillingdon. Their argument was that they didn’t have appropriate autism provision within the borough and felt he needed a long term residential placement to meet his needs.

Now, I’m not sure how the tendering process in adult social care works. Is there a trade magazine where prospective products are advertised and invitations to tender for that product welcomed? How does the Authority asking for tenders make contact with potential tenderers? However it was done, it produced eight different organisations, who submitted their tenders.

Six of them contacted me. Interestingly, the one that Hillingdon chose because it “best matched the specifications from our tendering process” didn’t contact me. That very fact alone should have been enough to wipe them off the list, I felt, but Hillingdon felt differently and duly accepted the proposal and the care plan for the Court of protection hearing was to move Steven, under mental health section, to this hospital in Wales.

The ones that did contact me did a very high energy sales pitch and then asked if I had any questions. Over time, I developed a script:

“I’m terribly sorry that you’ve been put to so much trouble but I think the chances of Steven coming to your place are very slim indeed. We are due in the Court of Protection soon, where a judge will decide whether it is in Steven’s best interests to be kept away from his home. In answer to your question, I do have a question. Would it be okay if I pass on your contact details to both Steven’s solicitor, who I think would want a statement from you to be presented before the court when they look at the probable unlawful deprivation of Steven’s liberty? And can I pass on your contact details to Private Eye, who have been following Steven’s case and I’m sure they’d like to interview you about your plans for Steven’s future?”

Surprisingly, that was the end of the conversation. Needless to say, this was used against me in Hillingdon’s court submission as an example of me being uncooperative. Most of the “suitable providers” pulled out after I spoke to them. I can tell this story, three years on and see the humour in it but at the time, it was desperate. A race against the clock in one of the most inhumane arenas I’d ever found myself in. I couldn’t grasp the language. I didn’t get the process. It was beyond me that the council were approaching planning for my son’s future in the same way that they might approach their refuse collection contracts.

It still goes on. Should vulnerable people be put out to tender? Can everybody and everything be reduced to a commodity that needs a provision? There’ll always be people looking to make a buck who believe they can meet that provision, so I don’t see it changing. In the meantime, our family members, who need care and respect are treated in the same way as a window cleaning service – we need our windows cleaning – who can do that job the cheapest? There’s not much difference.


From → Social Care

  1. I don’t know about other areas, but in the North West there’s an online process:

  2. Shirley Buckley permalink

    Mark you are brilliant but being rational and good old common sense lose out against those in power always. Which hospital in Wales?? I have a lot of knowledge of the set up there tendering is a purely commercial business (as we all know) and once acontract has been signed the only part that matters is paying. Ask to see the contracts between S S and the provider (private profit making companies)

  3. Shirley Buckley permalink

    Mark we need to all get together and bring a case into the jurisdiction of the Court of Protection. We need the best barrister there is. I need to talk to you privately about this would you be willing to phone me 01217041690. I am 15 years further on than you, seven years in the courts and tens of thousands of pound poorer

  4. Sally permalink

    Its hard to understand why the hospitals which contacted you didn’t want to be contacted by the Court, Private Eye etc. They could have just said that they offered accomodation for people with the following conditions… and had had no part in the disagreement between you and Hillingdon about this matter of whether or not living so far away was in Stephen’s best interests. Nobody, not parents, the Court or the Media would have though anything less of the services in question had they taken that line. Your objection at the time was based on location. Neither you or Stephen wanted him to live away. Nothing the services in question could do about that.

    Tendering is never made open to parents of the vulnerable. Whatever is chosen is ,by some miracle, hailed as the cheapest yet providing better quality than more costly options. Thank goodness for that. Because unlike, say, a bun shop we can avoid if its no good, if our vulnerable people are poorly served we can’t go to another service around the corner.We have nothing to barter with. If we aren’t pleased-so what. We don’t hold the money and we didn’t sign the contract.
    Thus our LD children have no power.

    • Weary Mother permalink

      And if the whole LA contracted agency thing goes pear shaped and you complain to the LA, they say that they have no jurisdiction over disciplinary decisions made by the external agency. That was what we were told by LA. I read today that there have been legal changes made by the High Court recently, allocating more responsibility for ‘negligence of children and vulnerable people’ to LA’s. Anyone got any more info on this?

  5. I don’t think the tendering itself is the big problem, if you were (for example) looking for a new support worker yourself, you’d need to go through some kind of process of advertising, telling possible people what you would need them to do, making a shortlist and so on … which is the same sort of thing. The problem is that people get so little involvement with the tendering process — you should be able to see what the LA are asking providers to do (or write the description yourself), get involved with the shortlisting to make sure it works on your criteria and so on.

  6. Sally permalink

    Mark! Have you seen Private Eye? Hilingdon got the Rotten Boroughs aware for plain english for thier “non building based services” line!

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