Despite the best efforts of local authorities to prevent them, emergency situations are part of life.
From flooding to homelessness, there are many different crises that can occur at all hours of the day or night. That’s why it’s vital that councils have the right tools in place to communicate with their residents when they’re most in need of help and support.
At Ealing Council we lead the joint out of hours telephony service that offers local government partners, including local authorities and housing arm’s length management organisations (ALMOs), access to its pool of expert customer service advisors, who are trained to provide residents with high-quality emergency support when other phone lines are closed.
The service can be tailored around your available budget to help you receive excellent value and efficiencies without compromising on the quality of service you are providing to citizens. In addition, the customer service advisors use the latest call management technology, which gives access to sophisticated scripts so that calls are handled exactly in the way the client organisation wants.
However, a key barrier for using external support for an emergency out of hours service quickly can be the procurement regulations that public organisations must follow.
Easing the strain on long and complex procurement processes
When councils purchase external services, they must go through a formal procurement process if the multi- year value of the contract to be awarded is above the Services Threshold (£189330 excluding VAT). To award the work, the council must publish a Find a Tender Service (FTS) notice and follow an equal opportunities procurement process. The procurement process for customer service support (as offered by Capita for the out of hours service) can take 18 months since it is a complex service. There are few, if any, frameworks which a public body could use,but the Ealing Partnership has the advantage of a dedicated contract manager to support customer organisations 24/7 at times of emergency.
By joining the out of hours partnership you can bypass delays due to procurement. The out of hours contract between Ealing Council and Capita allows councils (and other organisation types named on the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) notice published at the commencement of the Ealing procurement) to join the service without having to undertake a custom procurement. After the induction period, they can use the service almost immediately, and the values on the OJEU notice allow a multi- year approach to be adopted.
Five London Boroughs and 2 ALMOs are currently working within the partnership, providing citizens with high quality and rapid emergency customer support when their offices are closed.