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Commissioning for Quality: Ten Years of Social Care Markets in England


The introduction of social care markets was one of the main planks of the Conservative government's community care reforms of 1990. The Labour government, whilst emphasising collaboration rather than competition, has not sought to reverse this policy. What have been the consequences? We discuss a decade of market-related change under five heads: purchasers, providers, commissioning, care planning and delivery, and users and carers. There have been quite substantial changes effected by social care markets in each domain, in turn generating a number of pertinent questions for the future success of social care policy in England. One is the very suitability of market-like arrangements in social care. Another is whether transaction costs are too high. More generally, are social care markets structured in a way that will generate the efficiency improvements that successive governments expect of them? Fourth, to what extent will price competition damage quality of care? Finally, will commissioning arrangements mature so as to achieve a better balance between competitive and collaborative modes of working?

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Journal of Social Policy
  • ISSN: 0047-2794
  • EISSN: 1469-7823
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-social-policy
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