Payment by results brings integrity to services - but we must be careful that it doesn’t reduce choice
Hitting the target
Following much speculation about a move to ‘payment by results’ within the Supporting People programme, Birmingham Council has just introduced a performance-related model.
To be piloted over the coming year, it is a major change for support providers in the city, which means we will have to produce evidence of outcomes for every customer we work with. Each customer will have at least five outcomes, two of which are mandatory, one service-specific and two that people will choose when they access services.
Trident Reach works with a broad range of people accessing Supporting People services - homeless people, young people, people with learning disabilities, families experiencing domestic abuse and older people. We provide services to more than 800 people and employ 142 staff across Birmingham.
Currently support providers are paid per hour of service delivery - our output - but now we will be paid in relation to the result for customers, for what they have personally achieved, from maintaining a tenancy to accessing meaningful activities, such as gaining employment or workplace training.
We already measure our impact on a national database so, for us, this payment-by-results system gives us a framework to something we already do. But the pilot phase will be a challenge as, to fit in with the new system, we will have to ensure that support is targeted to achieve the outcomes outlined for each individual accessing our services.
The new payment model ensures all providers have to work on achieving the same type of results. The challenge for us, as providers, is to ensure the variety of services we offer people remains available. We have to be careful we don’t lose the holistic approach to supporting individuals as we prove the worth of the programme in a climate of huge cuts to social care and local authority budgets.
Overall, I believe it is a positive step which we support. It brings a level of integrity to what we do, makes things simpler and gives greater clarity for the customer and service provider. It takes a localised approach, focusing on what each person has achieved, to demonstrate the benefits of what we do for individuals and the wider community.
It may also provide a vision of the future for support providers working across the UK.
Dominic Bradley is charity lead at Trident Reach