Headlines: October 2nd, 2014

The Social Value Act requires people who commission, or buy, public services to consider securing added economic, social or environmental benefits for their local area. This power has been used successfully with service contracts in the past year and a review is now considering extension to all contracts.

The Act went live in January 2013 and has put social value at the heart of commissioning, by ensuring that authorities consider the wider social, economic and environmental benefit that they can achieve when buying services. In doing so, it puts power in commissioners’ hands to design services in a way that achieves not just their immediate objectives, but has wider benefits for the community too. For providers, the Act makes sure that their social impact is recognised and rewarded when they compete for public contracts.

Examples of how the Act has been used include Wakefield Council that wanted a new milk supplier in local schools. They selected Fresh Pastures who deliver milk and also provide local schoolchildren with lessons on healthy living and food miles. Fresh Pastures also provide work opportunities for the long-term unemployed.

The University of Northampton launched the £1 billion University Challenge. It encourages the UK’s higher education sector to spend at least £1 billion of the £7 billion it spends on procuring goods and services from social enterprises.

Croydon Council recently went out to tender for a £150 million housing repairs contract. The council used a consultation process to fully develop social value considerations. This allowed prospective suppliers to produce innovative ideas that added extra value to the service they would provide. The process produced a significant response from providers, who proposed a range of outcomes including energy efficiency advice for residents, initiatives that target fuel savings for customers, DIY skills workshops for residents, neighbourhood improvement projects and early-stage incubation for social enterprises.

The review will help to decide whether the Act should be extended, for instance, to cover contracts for goods and works as well as services and how it might be extended in a way that continues to support small businesses and voluntary, charity and social enterprise organisations to bid for public contracts.

The review team will consider a range of evidence and aims to report on findings in early 2015.

Don on Google+