This case study is part of the LGA's Housing Advisers Programme which funds the provision of an independent adviser offering bespoke expert support to local authorities for a specific project working to deliver homes, reduce homelessness, or generate savings or revenues.
During 2018, the LGA commissioned Neil Morland & Co Housing Consultants to work with Warrington Borough Council, to develop a specification for procuring housing support services for people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness.
Neil Morland & Co Housing Consultants completed a needs and gap analysis, to understand the local context. The results were carried forward to inform a specification for tendering the supply of supported housing for people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness.
The project was carried out during Winter/Spring 2019.
Warrington Borough Council commissioned several organisations to provide accommodation-based and floating support to people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. A mixture of voluntary organisations and housing associations provided a hostel for single men and women, shared housing for young people, and a refuge for women and children escaping domestic abuse. Additionally, people living in council temporary accommodation, plus those living in general needs social housing and the private rented sector were supported in their homes. The contractual terms of these services were all coming to an end, requiring the council to undertake a recommissioning exercise.
Neil Morland & Co Housing Consultants were commissioned because of their knowledge of homelessness services in Warrington, having previously worked extensively in the borough. They also had experience of carrying out strategic evaluations for Welsh local authorities under the Supporting People programme.
To complete the needs and gap analysis, Neil Morland & Co Housing Consultants interrogated statistical evidence held by Warrington Borough Council. This information helped paint a picture of the characteristics and needs of people who are currently homeless or threatened with homelessness. The data also showed the outputs being achieved by service providers that are currently contracted by Warrington Borough Council to provide housing support services.
To further inform the needs and gap analysis, a workshop was held with a wide range of stakeholders (including commissioned providers), to solicit their views about current service housing support provision, the needs of people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness. The opinions of people who had experienced homelessness were also recorded, via a series of confidential interviews. A set of findings showed, based current services, what was working well, what could be better, and what needed to be a priority for the future.
Based on the results from the needs and gap analysis it was decided that a single tender specification should be published, encompassing the whole range of services that would be required. Bids from both single providers and consortiums were encouraged. The tender specification was framed to be outcome-focused, with clear objectives that showed the impact the council wished to achieve for people who are homeless or threatened with homelessness.
The specification included a set of performance measurements, that would help monitor progress towards the desired outcomes. The specifics of the baseline measures and target goals are negotiable with the wining bidder(s). The specification required bidders to specify the activities that would be carried out to achieve the specified results and intended outcomes. Finally, the bidders were asked to demonstrate the resources (eg money, people, materials, others) that would be required to deliver their proposed activities. An evaluation framework for submitted tender, focused equally on scoring bids against three factors; (i) value for money, (ii) effectiveness of proposed activities, (iii) quality of proposed performance measures. An underlying principle the tender evaluation framework, was the overall social value of any bids submitted.
Cross-tenure floating support was considered by all parties to be invaluable for preventing homelessness. The aspect of current service provision was absorbed into the new single tender specification that was published.
The need for more of the support to housing-led, rather than building-based was identified as key requirement for the new tender specification. While it was acknowledged that some emergency accommodation was needed, many people would be better supported in a home of their own in the community.
The future contract term would be for ten years, with suitable break clauses, to allow service providers more opportunity to innovate. The term was also judged to foster in-kind investment throughout the lifetime of the contract. The contract value was equal to the total sum of money currently spent, with a commitment to increase the fee at suitable rate at annual intervals.
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