Commissioning for PIEs

Until recently, much of the focus on development of PIEs identifying the key features and encouraging development of PIEs has been focussed on the work being done within services 'at the coalface'. Wider government and local funders' efforts have been in the background.  Yet funding and contracted service specification can hugely assist or can seriously restrict the development of PIEs within services.

With the publication of the expanded PIEs 2.0 framework, this is changing.  Increasingly we see recognition of those services that are actively engaged with identifying and tackling gaps and barriers to their service users' progress and prospects, and addressing such issues not solely in individual casework, but in wider forums where the coherence or fragmentation of the systems and pathways can be addressed.

The self assessment framework, the Pizazz, explicitly makes a place for such 'sector engagement', in addition to the keyworker's brokerage of gaps and barriers with individual users, as part of the general organisational ethos of Learning and Enquiry; and both here and in the on-line version, the PIE Abacus, services are encouraged to assess how far they are able to do that, and what helps and hinders.

For commissioners and other funders keen to see a whole systems approach, and deeper system change, the PIE Abacus offers a tool for obtaining that local overview of gaps and hindrances to be addressed; and using the PIE Abacus, the views of services' staff can now also be complemented and strengthened with service user input in these assessments.

This more systemic approach to assessment may help to operationalise the recommendations of the duo of papers published by Collaborate with first Newcastle and now Northumberland universities, on commissioning for complexity. Toby's papers - the PIE approach, and the Pizazz, doing at system level - operationalising

The stress on relationships, central to any kind of working as a PIE, suggests that it is not simply the proponents of Housing First that question the constant 'staircase' ( or 'pass-the-parcel') approach that has characterised much thinking on service provision in the past. New thinking on early trauma suggest the importance of attachment, and valuing continuity of support, and tackling barriers. ( see Gaps and Barriers)

Overly prescriptive contracting can often end up dis-empowering staff for creativity and responsiveness.  Likewise measures of success and 'value for money' that might be quite workable for simple interventions can ignore the real nature of work with the more marginalised and disengaged. Complex and entrenched needs require both longer timescales and subtler and more multi-dimensions outcomes

But this is not to say that short term services cannot be psychologically astute; on the contrary, short term and initial engagement services play a crucial role in initial engagement, paving the way for others to build on a constructive first encounter.


Johnson R: Do 'complex needs' need 'complex needs services'? (Part One)

Johnson R: Do 'complex needs' need 'complex needs services'? (Part Two)

Service users' PIE assessments (page) HERE

Lankelly Chase: Behaving like a system HERE

Zaxk Ahmed on Participatory appraisal in Tower Hamlets HERE

Lipsky on street level bureaucrats HERE

Pathways: standards for commissioners HERE