Tender moments: Social care tender writing hints and tips

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If you have the task of writing a bid to win a local authority contract for social care, there are things you should know before you start. If this is the first time you have accepted the challenge (and a challenge it is), you may even be feeling a mild sense of panic.

Here, Bill Watson from Insequa provides tips to make it easier.

Care providers who need to secure local authority contracts are usually asked to tender for the services through a series of complex and lengthy forms. At Insequa, we are social care specialists and we write tenders for all types of care delivery, so we know the ins and outs of what’s required.

Writing a method statement for a social care tender

The real meat of a tender submission lies in the method statements and the quality of the responses you provide to the commissioners’ queries. Here’s what you need to do to achieve great results with your method statements:

  • Pay attention to the key requirements within the specification document and to the structure of the evaluation process. Use these for reference to work out what the commissioners want to see reflected in the method statements and the overall nature and tone of the proposed service.
  • On each method statement, highlight the key elements of the question and use these to set up the major sections of your response. This helps to give good structure and keeps your answer aligned to the question.
  • Under each section, jot down the points you want to make, for example: Section 1, this point, then this point, then this point. Under each point, provide some background information with evidence or testimonials to give your statements credibility.
  • You now have the overall structure of a response that will address the question, and the broader requirements, that is substantiated with solid evidence. Now, consider word count. There will usually be a word limit for method statements. Divide the overall word limit amongst the sections and individual points in your response, for example 200 words for point 1, 350 words for point 2 etc.
  • Start fleshing out each point in turn. Write clearly and concisely and don’t over-use technical jargon. Ensure you keep each point roughly within its allocated word count – you can get it exact later during editing.

What to highlight

Clear benefits

Don’t only write what you will do, identify the benefits and outcomes your proposals will bring to the commissioners.

USPs

Be clear about the unique features you bring to the service and show the commissioners why they should buy from you rather than another bidder.

Added value

How can you exceed the contractual requirements? Ways of working or elements of the service that go beyond what is asked will score additional marks.

Experience

Where possible, show you have the capability and background experience through practical examples and case studies.

Avoid these mistakes

Sticking to these guidelines will help keep your tender writing on track. Our experience over the years having written and evaluated hundreds of tenders for clients, has led to us identifying common mistakes. Here are the mistakes you need to avoid in your written responses if you can:

Not answering the question

This is probably the most common error in tender writing. Read the question carefully, more than once. Highlight important words in the question text. Before you start writing, build a bullet point plan for your response that covers all aspects of the question.

Not addressing the specification requirements

Again, a very common mistake is to tell a great story about all the wonderful work you do, without paying much or any attention to what the commissioning body requires. Read the specification carefully, make notes and ensure your tender aligns with what’s required.

Insufficient detail

Overly brief or superficial responses are a perfect opportunity to lose marks in the evaluation. Descriptions and propositions must be detailed in order to have credibility and to show the commissioners exactly what they are potentially buying.

Lack of evidence

Your claims, plans and propositions within a tender need to be backed up and substantiated. Show the evaluator evidence of your achievements and prove you are capable of delivering what you claim. Without the underpinning evidence-base, your responses can appear weak and lack credibility.

Irrelevant information/‘padding’

You don’t get marks for information and content that doesn’t answer the question, unfortunately. Responses need to be relevant and direct – no long-winded stories or ‘round the houses’ tales – keep to the point and make sure all the content within a response is there for a reason and is likely to score you a mark from the evaluator.

Compliance errors

In some cases, questions in tenders ask you to account for your compliance with certain standards and regulatory or legal requirements. Health and safety issues, safeguarding, staff recruitment and information security are all examples of this commonly encountered in social care tenders. If your responses do not reflect the expected standards, you will lose marks and, depending on the discrepancy, could be ruled out altogether.

Finally, you must review and edit everything you have written. Check you’ve fully addressed all the questions in your method statements and that you haven’t drifted off-course. Stay alert to the common mistakes and avoid them if you want to get results. When you’re 100% happy with the content, proofread and check word count on all method statements, and if possible, ask someone else to read them and provide comments. The value of an objective second opinion cannot be over stated when it comes to tender writing – commissioners read so many tenders, day in day out, it’s important that you write something that is clear, persuasive and accessible.