As a newcomer to the West Midlands, I have been struck by the consistent and concerted efforts made to work collaboratively across the region to find new opportunities and to drive up value and drive down costs. The Agency SW cap is a great example of what’s possible, even where there is the occasional bending of the rules and the more frequent efforts of some of the agencies to manipulate us – but we are working with them on that!
I come from a region where competition remained a more powerful driver than collaboration so the efforts here are refreshing!
Before I arrived in Birmingham, my colleague had nominated me to lead work for the region on the residential framework, which expires later this year. The framework that is coming to its end is not an effective model. Many providers have come off the framework, and we spend, between us, upwards of £5.5m on residential placements off the framework. In addition, over half of the residential beds in the West Midlands are occupied by young people placed by other authorities further afield - often London - and these authorities are willing to pay higher prices, driving up costs for all of us. Not the best model!
So I was pleased to attend a recent event organised by our commissioners from across the region, for independent providers. Many came. Some were sceptical. Some were critical. But all were able to recognise that we were trying to do things in a better and more inclusive way. We will do better by building a dialogue with providers, and working with them to shape the local regional market so more placements are taken by more of our children, and services take shape in ways that meet our needs.
It is encouraging to be able to take forward this work with smart and able commissioners who recognise the value that comes from collaboration.
Andy Couldrick, Chief Executive, Birmingham's Children's Trust