Local charity First Steps Bath have lost out on a tender to national charity Action for Children, based in Watford, to provide community services in the Twerton area.
First Steps run classes and workshops for parents, as well as operating two nurseries, one in Twerton and Moorland nursery in Oldfield Park.
They are losing funding from the council for running programmes for parents; the money will instead be going to Action for Children. However the charity will continue to run their very popular nurseries.
First Steps was founded in 1992 after a group of community minded volunteers identified a need for better childcare in Twerton, alongside help for parents to to enable them to fulfil their potential.
The charity has gone from strength to strength over the years, whilst remaining local and subsequently able to react to the needs of the community.
The charity can be considered a pioneer; it was taking a holistic approach to childcare and family support well before it became government policy to encourage such structures.
However the council have deemed Action for Children better suited to run family outreach programmes after a mandatory re-tendering process took place late last year.
Roz Lambert, the Chief Executive at First Steps said: “This commissioning system actively disadvantages small and medium sized charities.
“Charities that have been developed by the communities in which they work, charities that truly understand the needs of these communities, charities that each have a board of committed, skilled trustees who are also from the area and who bring local solutions to local needs.
“Not people who are based in towns and cities far removed from the services that they are making decisions about.”
Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath and Liberal Democrat spokesperson for communities and local government said: “This is about how we choose to structure our society. Do we want large remote organisations making decisions about services in our local communities, or do we want the local people who shape them making the decisions?
“We’ve seen how the Virgin take-over of Sirona services worked, and people were rightly angry about it. Exactly the same thing is happening here, but on a smaller scale.”
Lloyds Bank Foundation recently published a report, Commissioning in Crisis, looking at how commissioning in the UK is structured, and raised serious concerns regarding bias towards large charities as opposed to small community led ones.
Regarding bid writing for tenders, the report said that the system “can prove prohibitive to small and medium-sized charities that do not have access to a dedicated bid writing resource.”
Roz Lambert continued: “We accept that we cannot change the decision that has been made with regard to the Children’s Centre service in Bath and we understand that Local Authority commissioners are stretched and incline towards a single contract to deliver services.
“However, we are concerned for the future of other local charities like First Steps who may not have diverse funding streams.”
Wera concluded: “The Tories have made the decision to send the money out of BANES, to an organisation that they will realistically have very little oversight of, with some of it coming back as services.
“Why not spend all of the money locally, by favouring local suppliers?
“Carillion is a perfect example of what happens when organisations expand for the sake of expansion on public tenders.
“You would have thought there would have been a voice of reason in this decision making process to say actually, Twerton residents, already delivering in Twerton, are best placed to make decisions about Twerton. Sadly, this does not appear to be the case.”