Introducing commissioning in Ireland: establishing a baseline
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Shaw, A. and Canavan, J. (2017) Introducing Commissioning in Ireland: Establishing a Baseline. Galway: UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, National University of Ireland, Galway.
Established on 1 January 2014, through the Child and Family Agency Act, Tusla is responsible for improving well-being and outcomes for children.1 In 2014, Tusla published the first nationally developed commissioning strategy for child and family services in the Republic of Ireland. The strategy defines commissioning as ‘the process of deciding how to use the total resources available for children and families in order to improve outcomes in the most efficient, equitable, proportionate and sustainable way’ (Gillen et al., 2013: 1). Based on the approach outlined in the strategy, Tusla undertook to develop a three-year commissioning plan (2015–18). Among the functions set out for Tusla in legislation, the Act also creates a new framework for accountability for the use of resources; for financial arrangements between the agency and other organisations, including not-for-profit providers; and for non-financial service provision arrangements with other statutory bodies. This drive for an effective resource-allocation orientation takes place in the context of a national policy orientation towards greater management of constrained resources. In the area of children and family services, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs’ Statement of Strategy 2011–2014, acknowledging severe resource constraints, specifies the need for research evidence on effectiveness to inform the review, redesign or curtailment of such programmes and services (DCYA, 2012). The first overarching national policy framework for children and young people in Ireland, Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures, stipulates that Tusla must introduce the commissioning of services ‘by moving away from a grants system to outcome-based contracts, and offer support to build capacity within the children and youth sector to respond to the new approach’ (DCYA, 2014: 69). Outside of the children and youth sector, a key theme of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s strategy is the need for a stronger emphasis on better outcomes for service users, and a commitment to change how services are designed and delivered (DPER, 2014).