Desta Consortium

West Central London


In the Consortium Toolkit we focused strongly on Desta Consortium which offers membership to voluntary organisations from eight London boroughs. Shani Lee from Desta spoke at our original launch event in February 2012. Since then, Desta has completed its first six months delivering the Expert Patients Service contract with good outcomes. Providers achieved more than 70% of enrollment targets, and recruitment and retention of people from BME groups and the most disadvantaged wards are all above target. For example, retention of people from BME groups was 83% – more than 30% above target.

Alongside Desta, CaVSA Hammersmith & Fulham (the local CVS) has recently launched Valens Consortium which will provide services for children, families and young people. Valens has recruited its first nineteen members, and has initially targeted larger organisations with the aim of building the leadership and tendering capacity of the Consortium.

Hammersmith & Fulham Council is facilitating introductory meetings between representatives of Desta and Valens with the Directors of Adult Social Care and Children’s Services Commissioning and members of their teams. This is part of the Council’s commitment to building relationships with providers and having a clear understanding where the voluntary sector can help the Council to deliver its priorities. Desta Consortium has also initiated a pre-procurement dialogue with the NHS Inner North West London PCTs.

Development work on the third consortium, focused on regeneration and economic inclusion, started in April with consultation events in White City (recently awarded Neighbourhood Community Budget status) in Hammersmith & Fulham, and Westbourne Park, on the boundary of North Kensington and Westminster. The consortium is expected to incorporate in December 2012, with the first member recruitment round in March 2013.

CaVSA Hammersmith & Fulham continues to build close relationships with Kensington & Chelsea Social Council and Voluntary Action Westminster to facilitate consortium development. “We need to take a strategic approach across the voluntary sector, if we are to maximize the tendering capacity available in the sector,” explained Shani Lee.

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Background to Desta

Desta Health and Social Care Consortium was incorporated in February 2011 and registered as a charity in July 2011. It operates across eight London boroughs: Brent, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster and had thirty-seven member organisations at January 2012.

In June 2011, Desta won its first NHS contract for £670,000 to deliver the Expert Patient Service. By October 2011, Desta had completed its first TUPE transfer, put in place a GAD- certified comparable pension plan and commenced delivery with eight partner organisations across three boroughs.

Desta was established by CaVSA Hammersmith & Fulham (CaVSA), the local Council for Voluntary Service which, as part of an earlier consortium of local organisations, had secured £0.5m BASIS Big Lottery funding to set up four voluntary sector consortia by August 2013.

There was already an excellent relationship with local PCT commissioners who had approached CaVSA about developing a partnership of voluntary sector organisations with a lead body. The PCT was looking for a single provider to deliver an aggregated service with an annual contract value of £337,600 across three London boroughs. Previously, the PCT had had contracts of £16,000pa with many small voluntary organisations that commissioners had directly supported. These were located in one borough and, individually, would not have had the capacity to bid or to manage a tri-borough service.

Shani Lee, Head of Partnerships and Commissioning, was appointed as the lead for consortium development in CaVSA. She came with background experience in voluntary sector economic development and business support, including partnerships and other informal consortia.  It gave her an understanding of the kind of tensions around equality between organisations and the need, on one hand, to support smaller bodies, and on the other hand to manage risk and liability for larger organisations. Shani is also deeply committed to a diverse voluntary sector ecology – as were the commissioners – and the importance of small niche providers. The challenge was to develop a single point of contracting that would allow small organisations to participate, and that would also manage risk.

Armed with a checklist of issues, Shani attended a workshop delivered by Neil Coulson for the Procurement Champions Network at ACEVO in June 2010. The ‘hub and spokes’ structure of the formal consortium model addressed many of her (long) list of issues. The consortium is owned and controlled by its members, with each member having an equal vote; the trustees are compelled to act in the interests of the consortium membership as a whole. At the same time, the consortium is run by a democratically-elected strategic board which provides strong leadership, governance and collective intelligence and is supported by professional business and contracting expertise through the hub.

Much of Shani’s role involves relationship building. For example, the Health Commissioners were already very positive about working with a consortium but Shani had to ensure that they understood that the ‘hub and spokes’ model would meet their needs, and responded to their concerns about risk management and quality assurance. Regular updates took place with, roughly, fortnightly phone contact and brief meetings every six to eight weeks for about a year, prior to the invitation to tender.

Local voluntary sector organisations required surprisingly little persuasion of what they stood to gain through a collective approach. Smaller bodies in particular understood that they needed to be part of larger structures in order to engage with wider opportunities. In several cases trustees had mandated their senior management to support the consortium’s development. Other organisations were happy that CaVSA was setting this up, and were happy to be approached to join once the consortium was established. On the whole, larger organisations found it more difficult to adapt to a joint approach, although they recognised the needs and benefits for individual organisations of operating as part of a consortium.

Desta’s Expert Patient Service is managed jointly by the Service Management Group, which comprises all the provider organisations in the contract and meets monthly. One organisation, the Rain Trust, has been appointed to provide professional and support services for the contract. This includes tutor recruitment, training and development, and clinical supervision for tutors. Rain Trust also provides professional support to the other provider organisations, each of which has a contract to host courses, recruit participants from their service users and complete monitoring information. If one of the delivery organisations is struggling to meet targets, the Rain Trust has responsibility for providing practical support to that organisation. Desta anticipates that most issues around quality and capacity will be addressed by supporting the provider, rather than having to invoke remedial action.




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