New guide to commissioning short breaks for carers

Promoting Variety is a new tool for commissioners to work with communities to provide breaks for carers.

The new Promoting Variety guide is a result of a year-long Think Tank – hosted by Shared Care Scotland and Healthcare Improvement Scotland – as a response to representatives from health and social care partnerships (HSCPs) and carer organisations around the country reporting challenges with:

  • determining how to meet existing and future demand for short breaks
  • reconciling traditional commissioning models with the principles of self-directed support, and
  • meeting the promise of greater choice and control for carers and service users.

Local communities
The guide helps local authorities and HSCPs work through these challenges and establish the conditions in local communities to provide carers with good and improving opportunities to access breaks from caring.

It will be of particular interest to commissioners, procurement teams, locality leads and practice leads. It can be used for reflection and planning, and to help facilitate and stimulate conversations on the future shape and direction of short breaks.

The Chair of Shared Care Scotland, Laura Bannerman, said:

"Within these pages you will find ideas, rooted in co-productive approaches, that are both realistic and challenging, and that can be picked up and adapted to your local circumstances."

Eight principles
The Promoting Variety guide was finalised in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, where examples were already emerging of the necessity, and benefits, of devolving authority, enlisting community support and making it easy for people to do the right thing.

It has eight overarching principles to guide the development of short breaks provision:

  • The voice and involvement of carers and cared-for people, including those not using services, should inform each stage of market shaping.
  • Individual choice is influenced by individual, social and material factors. Effective market facilitation should address each of these.
  • Outcomes should drive commissioning and procurement, not the other way around.
  • Short breaks should be defined and interpreted as broadly as possible. This supports choice and encourages creativity.
  • Commissioned support takes place in a wider ecosystem of support, which it should complement.
  • The responsibility for provider and market sustainability is shared by commissioners and providers.
  • Risks should be evidenced and discussed openly. There is always a balance to be found, between the risk of doing something and of not doing.
  • Innovation. Provide time and space to enable practitioners, commissioners, carers and the people they care for to think creatively about how to meet outcomes through short breaks. Address other enablers and barriers to innovation. Remember most innovations are incremental improvements in what has gone before – something everyone is able to contribute to.

Visit the Shared Care Scotland website to download the guide PDF.