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No One Can Say They Didn’t Know … Maintaining Trust And Relationships (Pt III)

No one can say they didn’t know … Maintaining trust and relationships (Pt III)

For the past ten years and more NCERCC, often with a small number of notable consistent others, has been researching, analysing, explaining the ownership pattern (and comparative costs) of children’s homes in England.

We have been consistent in asserting that it is a choice as to the ownership density; a choice for government to set policy, a choice for local government with its dual purchaser (setting terms and conditions in frameworks to enable small providers) and provider role ( we have consistently said that if local authorities want to have more of their own homes it is a choice), and providers choosing to be smaller and larger (and if smaller are to resist the larger they need to federate together).

For some years I was the chair of the NCCTC conference (National Commissioning and Contracting Training Conference). This 2-day annual conference brings together ministers, government officials, local government leaders and commissioners, providers from voluntary organisations and private sector, researchers.

At the 2015 conference I made the opening remarks with my focus being the maintaining trust and relationships

NCCTC 2017 – Maintaining trust and relationships

Working with the relationship between local authorities and providers provide an insight.

There is less trust and relatedness than there has been for some years.

Maintaining what we have now is not enough.

Trust and relationships are a necessity for us all and for the young people we serve.

We have to do things differently.

The work we do involves complexity, this engenders uncertainty; where the hardest thing is to know how to act so as to make the difference that can be made, to know how and why that differs from an act that has potential to release or express resentment.

Facing uncertainty we can choose to recognise or reduce the complexity involved in commissioning.

How do we understand the complexity and uncertainty, and what are the actions we take as a result of our understanding?  

This is the sort of work we do not find time for, enough or perhaps at all, especially together as providers and commissioners.

I meet both and both say to me they feel powerless, an objective and subjective impotence.

Such pain might propel us to look for, or to impose, an order to the world. In an environment where finance is increasingly a determining factor there are reasons why we may have to see the situation as static when it is, objectively, dynamic.

Maybe we have to obsess over order because we deep down experience panic?

Two mirror examples; the meeting of budgets, savings, or growth; not finding the Friday afternoon placement or having a vacancy but the needs are too high to accept any of the tens that have come in today.  

This is something important to be talked about. We can make a start over these two days but must follow through over the next year.

Child care theory advises us for effective learning we need to feel safe, accepted, secure, able to explore and an individual sense of identity

Maslow – pyramid of needs – physiological then safety = security

Erikson – stages of development – Basic Trust v Mistrust

Caregivers provide the sense of trust through reliability, care and affection, faith in the environment and the future. A lack of this leads to mistrust, suspicion.


  • Anxious children – apprehensive, reluctant, unwilling, anxiously obedient,

Reminder – National Occupation Standards for Commissioners

  • Creating and maintaining relationships
  • Identifying and responding to needs
  • Promoting effective communication and information sharing

Focus here is on the psychological/emotional as means of expediting geographical/financial

5 types of defining quality (Pfeffer and Coote)

  1. Traditional – 5 star better than I star
  2. Scientific/expert – conforms to specification
  3. Managerial – excellence = satisfaction = excellence
  4. Consumerist = satisfaction = price
  5. Democratic – morally doing things right

These are ideologies.

Ideologies = ideas, beliefs, values that promote or legitimate interests unifying a social formation in ways convenient to a dominant power

We all need an ideology to live by.

Ideology is not what someone else has, it is a creation of social life; without social activity it does not exist; it does not exist because of others but because of the actions, or inactions, of us all.

What we are doing in our daily contracting and commissioning lives is shaped by economic interests, cultural norms, and political expectations. These organise our daily life, language, knowledge that is seen as useful, the arrangements we create. These are created not by one side or another, but by both. We need to look at what we create and why.

Across children’s services it is apparent that we have numerous and competing ideologies.

Ideology is ceaselessly negotiated.

The current state of Trust and Relationships relates to the negotiation over the social force that will organise children’s services, and thereby our work for vulnerable children; what is at stake are the values and beliefs that will define the task of children’s services and their delivery

Maybe this is a moment of searching before decision making?

Maybe we need to talk about feeling squeezed, crammed, compressed by arrangements that we feel we cannot escape?

Especially in a situation of extended permanent debt economy where both local authorities and providers are facing high debt and financial instability. Of course, it does not have to be the way it is, there other, many, potential futures about how to manage and regulate an economy.

There is something that unifies us – in the current circumstances we have all done the right things for the right reasons, equally perhaps there are times when, subsequently, we have found we have done the wrong things for the right reasons. By that time though it has been difficult to retrospectively readdress whatever it was – these linger long and affect the Present and Future.

For a future of trust and relationships we need to find a way of breaking the chains of potential resentment and recrimination, through rapprochement, reconciliation, using restorative practices, in order that we can reconceive, and create relational commissioning

A reminder from an earlier time of the development of commissioning

IDeA – Dilemmas and debates

‘Effective joint planning and commissioning necessitates new partnership, redistribution of power, …strategic understanding of how all outcomes are met … and a more commercially minded approach to procurement, all focused on the young person’

Much of the attention is currently on objective matters but the subjective experience matters too. Experiencing transactional commissioning is not the same as experiencing relational commissioning.

What we do and the language we use are intrinsically interlinked; we can incorporate or marginalise or exclude, we can think as a commons or as individual entities.  Monetising resources always pushes matters towards the individual and poses a threat to social relationships.

So, what is the vision we need to take us beyond fragmentation, contradiction, and negativity, and create an environment of affirmation? Do we only know the value of trust and relationships when they are gone?

If we look at ourselves in terms of Maslow or Erikson, we might see we are not at self-actualisation, but at subsistence. Subsistence living requires cooperation.

Prescription by its determinism empties the future and reduces the dialogue to discussion on technical necessity. However the probability, impossibility and possibility behind this thinking are all constructed.

Resentment, recrimination, rapprochement (not to how it was but how it will be), reconciliation, restorative practices, reconceive, relational.

These two days given us an opportunity not only to look at arrangements but also at legitimacy, fairness and participation as means to create the secure base that enables creativity, to consider new forms of governance of commissioning, procurement, and provision.

Buckminster Fuller – ‘to change something build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.’

Relational commissioning

  • An appreciation that personal , professional and social values influence the nature and process of the working relationship
  • The importance of building relationships over time, trust has to be established or anticipated, – there has to be a history and a future
  • Mutual trust is greater than individual self-interest

Relational commissioning requires

  • Shift from product to learning
  • Develop specific skills, attitudes, and abilities not only knowledge
  • Develop appropriate assessment procedures
  • Reward transformative practice
  • Encourage discussion of practice of both provider and commissioner
  • Provide transformative learning for both commissioner and provider
  • Fostering new collegiality
  • Link quality improvement to learning
  • Auditing improvement