A fresh approach to the strategic commissioning of disability services is urgently needed to strengthen relationships between statutory bodies and voluntary sector organisations so that positive outcomes for disabled people can be achieved, according to a new report published today by the Voluntary Organisations Disability Group (VODG).

Commissioning for a vibrant voluntary disability sector: the case for change draws upon the collective experiences across the VODG membership.

The report explores some of the challenges associated with the commissioning of services for disabled people as reported by voluntary sector providers. These include navigating complex procurement processes to compete for low priced contracts, having to subside services from charitable funds, and in some cases being forced to hand back contracts because of funding pressures.

The report also examines what good practice between statutory bodies and the voluntary sector should look like, offering recommendations for local authorities and clinical commissioning groups to support the effective delivery of services.

There are 13.3 million people living with a disability in the UK, representing 21% of the population. The provision of social care support to disabled people in ways that promote independence, choice and control, is a statutory obligation as set out in the Care Act. Many of these services, particularly for disabled people who rely on the state to pay for their care, are provided by voluntary sector organisations. Yet, the report demonstrates commissioning and procurement can hinder the role of the voluntary sector in delivering services and, in turn, their contribution to local communities.

Dr Rhidian Hughes, VODG chief executive, said:

“We need to strengthen strategic partnerships. People who use services, their families and providers should all be involved in commissioning services that help ensure the rights and entitlements of disabled people are fully met. But this is not the case and at a time of squeezed funding in social care, increasing demand and rising costs, some services are struggling to survive. Without adequate funding from central government, and with the continued absence of a long-term plan for social care, voluntary sector providers, and the care and support they offer to disabled people, are increasingly at threat.

“As our report demonstrates the voluntary sector makes a significant contribution to ensuring that the rights and entitlements of disabled people are met – we hope that a fresh approach to strategic commissioning will uphold, and not hinder, that contribution.”