The London Borough of Lewisham transform approach to Passenger Transport Commissioning

On April 20th 2017 Lewisham Borough Council successfully launched their new approach to passenger transport commissioning in collaboration with us. Lewisham are now working with a Dynamic Supply Base and using a Category Development System to manage the end-to-end commissioning process.

Just three weeks into the new approach and Lewisham are already working with 8 more providers than when they were using a framework, seeing an average of 9 offers per requirement. Beyond a generic DPS, the approach has also significantly reduced the manual processing of payments and invoices which has freed up two staff members’ time and enabled the council to build an open and transparent relationship with the market, whilst providing the best experience for service users.

In the lead-up to Lewisham’s launch of Passenger Transport, we talked to their Travel Assistance Advisor, Joint Commissioner and their Travel Coordinator Team Manager to understand what the process has been like for the Borough implementing the change.

Below, you will find a summary of those conversations. We'll be posting each individual interview throughout June so keep an eye out for them here.

  • What are the objectives for Passenger Transport at Lewisham Borough Council?

Paul Creech, Joint Commissioner for Lewisham summed up their objectives as:

“More individualised, flexible services for people that meets their actual needs rather than people being siphoned off into something. So, from my perspective, it’s much more about recognising people’s own abilities and to be independent and recognising independent travel and what this (working with adam) fulfils is providing an option for people where that’s not currently the case but can still cater for individual’s needs.”

  • What were the challenges facing Lewisham Borough Council in achieving these objectives?

Stephen Good, Travel Assistance Advisor at Lewisham provides some insight into what challenges were facing them:

“Coming in last year, we reviewed the traditional approach to commissioning which was a framework. We also reviewed the way Lewisham engaged with the market and at that point in time the framework was coming to an end (had just been extended for a further year) and that was as far as it could go. This meant we had to review whether a traditional framework would meet the current and future needs. We were looking at it and believed it wouldn’t meet the current and future needs in terms of the fact that there were problems with a traditional framework in transport.”

Stephen continued:

“Again, some of the manual tasks that they were doing would take too long, linked in with the finance systems, so therefore there were lots of things which created bottle-necks and delays which then impact on service delivery, customer service, safeguarding, contract monitoring and management. So, it increased risks of safeguarding issues.”

  • What did the process for engaging suppliers, commissioning and post-award of packages look like before?

Wendy Hall, Travel Coordinator Team Manager at Lewisham who worked closely with suppliers explained:

“We were quite organised really, we would send out quotes via email, to a distribution list and using a quotes form which made out what we required and we waited for an email from our Providers with their offers. Then we collated them and then located them.”

Although Lewisham were organised using a closed framework, they had some issues with this method of commissioning and the processing of packages post-award, as Stephen Good highlights:

“Beforehand in terms of commissioning, it was a traditional framework in place but again a lot of it was done manually and each stage of the commissioning process was stand-alone or with different systems. There was a different system for sending information out to the market and obviously, that comes back and goes into another system to record what’s been received. Then to produce any sort of award or correspondence and some finance information, it’s held in another system but then is processed in another system again and then before payment is made. Monitoring wasn’t supported by any of the systems either, so it was a bit here and a bit there.”

  • Why change?

Paul Creech indicated that everything came together quite nicely to ensure the change was necessary:

“I think it was almost like a perfect storm of things so transport is one of those areas where you will probably find that different councils are looking at their provision for transport because it is a very expensive aspect of people’s care and support. You’ve also got the changes of the Care Act which we’re coming to terms with, the personalisation agenda which has been going on for a long while but people are still looking at ways to enhance and develop that. We had the recognition that the Framework wasn’t working in terms of developing the market and we also knew that the team was inefficient so I think it was a case of we were looking at our options and this came around just at the right time.”

  • How did you get others on board to change?

Stephen Good indicated that there was a realisation from around Lewisham that the approach was failing which made it easier to bring about the change:

“From the offset with adam, in terms of the discovery report and identifying what the adam system can do and the approach can bring to Lewisham was key. By that point we had already involved different stakeholders, there was early engagement and I think the benefit for us was that people had realised that things were difficult or broken and therefore change had to happen…So, from that point of view it made it quite easy as people agreed that the approach was broken and we needed to resolve it.”

  • How has the change helped Lewisham?

In terms of market management, Wendy Hall indicated that providers are now more aware and engaged with what is going on:

“I think for them it’s going to provide the transparency around where they are in the ball park when they’re putting their offers in. They’re going to have sped up invoices with our interfaces working between adam and Oracle. So yes, that will be the main benefits for them.”

Paul Creech indicated that it will help with the main focus of the business case which was the processing of payments:

“I think in terms of the key thing around the business case the processing and the payments, I mean, the issue was that our payments were very very late, which tied up the team’s time in order to process them. Plus, it meant that the relationship with our providers wasn’t as good as it could be. So, I think that in terms of what it’s going to alleviate is number one, that relationship which then will drive and have a direct influence on the costs that we’re accruing for Social Care and it will also mean a more effective procurement system for the actual team that’s doing it. “

Stephen Good highlighted the importance of having a strong relationship between the council and its providers:

“I think by utilising the adam system what will happen is there will be a greater understanding between the providers and the council and they’ll be a better relationship between them. I think they’ll be more engagement between all parties. Therefore, from the providers and the councils point of view, things can operate in a more strategic way and I think in doing so it’ll allow for investment, it’ll allow for improved service, and hopefully at the same time ensure that we have a reduction in cost or at least, cost effective solutions for service delivery.”

  • What was it like implementing a category development system and working with us?

Wendy Hall indicated how comprehensive and smooth the transition has been working with us:

“With adam we’ve been led through the whole process so nicely, there is a lot of work that has to be done to get it on board but actually the whole process and the team came with such a comprehensive plan of how everything was going to work and the timetable that we were all working to, that we all went along very merrily through the whole thing. It’s been really good, we haven’t had any mad panics, it hasn’t been a stressful thing at all which sometimes when you’re setting up new stuff it can be. From our point of view it’s been a really nice and calm process, it hasn’t been helter-skelter or flying by the seat of your pants job it’s been really nice.”

Stephen Good also highlighted our understanding of the type of service transport is, which was a real benefit:

“adam also have a very good understanding of the type of service it is from a transport perspective and therefore have been able to use experiences and examples of configurations and set-ups of other places so we can try and ensure we don’t just replicate what we’ve done before onto the system. This means Lewisham have been able to test to see whether we need to change our approach or our thinking, so we can say ‘do we really need this’ or ‘could we change and operate it that way’, so it’s been helpful to test some of that and we have changed as a result.”

  • What were the timescales of the project like?

Stephen Good indicated that momentum was key to the time scales at the turnaround time was quick and at times, intense:

“They were tight and intense but I was saying to someone else earlier that I think in order to do something like this, because of the change and I suppose the scale of the change, I know it’s not necessarily a lot, but the impact and mindsets of people it is seen as quite a big change. Meaning the momentum is key and to have that momentum all the way through, I think helps get through each of the different stages and people in the end just get on with it and accept it rather than having slippage or time where they can challenge and push and argue.”

  • What type of relationship does Lewisham want with Providers?

Due to the nature of the service, Wendy Hall highlighted the importance of having a trusting relationship with their providers:

“We like to have a very trusting relationship with our providers. We’re handing over children and vulnerable people to them, so we have to trust them. So, obviously with the new ones you have to build that up but with our current providers, we know the strengths and weaknesses of all of our providers and I hope that continues with all of the new ones that we have. So, as we get to know them, we’ll know where they are and what they can offer.”

  • What has improved since go-live?

Paul Creech highlighted that working with us has enabled him to get others on board for Direct Payments and Personal Budgets:

“What it has helped me do is basically sell the idea of Direct Payments and Personal Budgets to a much broader audience. So, one of the issues we have around this is that people don’t necessarily want to Direct Payment because they don’t want to deal with the administration of having to manage money or employing people directly and everything that entails…So, we can offer a Personal Budget and we can commission using this much more effectively than we could previously.”

Wendy Hall highlighted that they’re expecting things to be easier in the coming months:

“Well we’re still very new to be honest, we’re only three weeks in really, so it’s hard to say really. We’re still picking up bits from beforehand so if you ask that question again in three months’ time, I’d probably say it’s all singing and dancing and made everything easier! So at the moment things are quite straightforward, we have queries about the invoicing and quotes and reporting but even if it reduces the number of invoices that we actually have to deal with, the physical dealing with invoices that would be a huge time saver for the team because it was very time consuming, which was completely monopolising two peoples time all of the time, so that’s something we’re really looking forward to and we have seen that in the last week or so.”

Stephen Good indicated that Lewisham are already seeing more bids and more providers receiving work after adjusting their bids which would not have been possible before:

“For us and of course we’re only a few weeks in but we have already seen more bids, we can see that providers have been onto the system and adjusted their bids. We’ve got a number of invoices or service receipts that have come through automated because they match which we haven’t then had to do any work on; where-as before we were having to manually check them against other systems and then upload them onto other things, so that’s freed up Officer time already.”

  • What next?

Wendy Hall indicated that it will free up time for the supplier team allowing them to spend more time focusing on compliance:

“Using adam it will free-up time for the two guys doing all of the invoicing. So then, they can move to new roles that are more client facing rather than being back-office spending so much time doing invoices, they’ll be able to be more interactive with our clients, do more assessments and have a better relationship with the schools. From my point of view, I’ll be able to concentrate more on compliance and getting out and building those relationships with our suppliers and ironing out any issues.”

Don't forget we'll be posting each individual interview throughout June, so keep an eye out for them here.

You can also read the stories of other Public Sector Organisations who have overcome their challenges and the status quo to implement the necessary changes to meet their objectives and who are now seeing results, here. It might just inspire you to do the same.