Much of the expenditure and focus in the public sector is on the core, people-based services that impact the daily lives of millions of families.
Education, health and care dominate the landscape of public services, and these are often in the spotlight and never far from structural changes. Increasingly, these services are being delivered in partnership (or through commissioning) with companies, trusts and organisations that bring much expertise and innovation to the table. We help these service providers build effective partnerships at the right level to meet local needs.
These services affect the lives of millions of families across the country and each face their own structural, political and budgetary challenges.
Too often, politicians struggle to identify solutions that sufficiently address public demands, certainly within the timescales the public expects. Our work is therefore focused on how we can bring private and voluntary sector providers together with those responsible for these services with a view to meeting the demands and expectations of the public.
Many parts of the country face a shortage of school places, particularly in urban areas, and this projected gap is getting worse. A number of local authorities have not put sufficient plans in place to address this, partly due to the creation of new schools being focused away from councils and towards academies and free schools. However, councils are still expected by local parents to help address the local need.
Cratus works with academy and free school sponsors to help local authorities and communities address this local need and strive for an overall improvement in education standards. With a similar approach to our work on more general public services, we recognise that the political priorities of local authorities (which may or may not include recognition of the scale of challenge) can be tackled by working in partnership with new and established education providers.
Whilst we recognise that different views exist about the focus on academies and free schools, we also recognise that all main parties are committed to this issue in one form or another for the benefit of the nation’s children. Our focus is therefore to support education providers in identifying how they can meet local demand, and then to work through the local and national decision-making channels to turn this into a reality.
Cratus also works with a leading trade association in the education sector, helping them to raise their profile and engage in education policy and budget discussions at a local and national level.
Like education, health has faced (and continues to face) many changes and challenges. With the introduction of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and the transfer of public health to local authorities, there is an increasing focus on partnership for the delivery of health and related services.
The health service faces many budget and service challenges, which the private and voluntary sector are well placed to address. Whilst the health service is generally less overtly political in its structure than local authorities, there are increasingly small “p” political considerations and local nuances to take into account when seeking to secure a contract in this sector.
Responsibility for social care sits with upper-tier local authorities, including county councils and metropolitan/unitary authorities. Care represents one of the biggest budgetary challenges for these councils, as overall local government funding has been reduced, whilst demand has increased. It is therefore little surprise that councils often find themselves in the spotlight for considering changes to service provision at a local level.
Many of the services provided under the social care banner are done so on a commissioned basis, with the private and voluntary sectors contracted to provide these services directly to those who have been assessed as needing care. This is a huge market that requires operators to ensure quality, safeguarding and value for money. Our work at Cratus helps clients tailor their professional services in this field to meet local need and build confidence in what they have to offer.
Due to budgetary and service demands, the delivery of social care services is becoming increasingly combined with health care – and this presents both opportunities and challenges. We work with our clients to understand the local decision-making frameworks – including the cross-over between hospital trusts, CCGs and local authorities – so that they can be most appropriately positioned to pitch for any jointly-commissioned work. We also support our clients in helping to shape the market and encourage such work to be jointly commissioned.