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Social value in commissioning and procurement

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Legislation says commissioners must consider the social value of a service and highlighting this should be a priority for voluntary organisations bidding for a service contract. Find out how social value is defined and how voluntary organisations can demonstrate they have it.

What is social value? 

Since the introduction of the Public Services (Social Value) Act, public bodies in England (and some in Wales) must consider how commissioned and procured services improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of the area. 

Chris White, the MP behind the Act, explains social value well.

“We mean ‘value’ not in its narrow [financial] sense but in its true sense – recognising the importance of social, environmental and economic well-being across our communities and in our lives”. 

Social value means different things to different people. Social and environmental problems in one area may differ widely from the problems in another. 

Added value

Social value is the term used to describe the additional value created in the delivery of a service contract which has a wider community or public benefit. This extends beyond the social value delivered as part of the primary contract activity.

For example, a homelessness organisation funded to provide hostel space for the homeless may create additional value by providing routes into employment and training for its service users.

This is a move away from awarding contracts based on lowest cost, and is of particular significance given the increasing pressure on public spending.

The Act requires the identifying of additional social value outcomes, regardless of the service provider.

Definitions of social value, however, may focus on outcomes which are more commonly identified with voluntary organisations.

Engagement between the public and the voluntary sector to jointly agree local definitions of social value can be important in realising the potential of voluntary organisations as service delivery partners.

What is the Social Value Act and what does it say?

Under the Act, public bodies include:

  • local authorities
  • housing associations
  • NHS agencies (including clinical commissioning groups)
  • central government departments
  • fire and police services.

Agencies must consider social value in advance of procurement to allow for social value to be incorporated into the process. They are required to consider the social value of public services (rather than goods or works) on contracts above EU procurement thresholds.

The threshold for social and other specific services, has been £589,148 since 1 January 2016. Find out more on EU thresholds for public contracts

Guidance from the Cabinet Office, however, makes clear that a social value approach can be taken below these thresholds, and is encouraged.

Implementing social value

The Act should help to produce a more favourable environment for voluntary organisations and social enterprises. Creating social value is at the heart of what we do and we are well-placed to implement and measure it. 

Voluntary organisations may do this directly by winning contracts, or by developing opportunities as sub-contractors. Or they may influence the design of services.

The government asked Lord Young to conduct a review into the Social Value Act to map progress, make recommendations and gather evidence. Lord Young’s report can be viewed here.

What is covered by the Act

The Act only applies to public service contracts and framework agreements to which the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 apply. Therefore, requirements under the Act only apply to contracts which are valued over EU Procurement thresholds as set in the 2006 regulations.

The Act does not apply to:

  • service contracts awarded by ‘calling off’ from a framework. A framework agreement is a general term for agreements with providers that set out terms and conditions under which specific purchases (‘call-offs’) can be made throughout the term of the agreement
  • contracts which fall below EU procurement thresholds
  • mixed services, goods or works contracts, where services are of less value or less incidental to the main purpose of the contract.

Promoting social value

While contracting authorities are required to consider social value in contracts over financial thresholds, considering social value in lower value contracts is promoted as good practice in accompanying guidance.

New EU procurement rules call on procurement officials to use MEAT (most economically advantageous tender) as a criteria for contract award.

This means contracting authorities will be obliged to consider wider social and environmental objectives alongside price and cost when evaluating tenders which are valued over the European Procurement thresholds.

This is viewed as a more intelligent approach to procuring services, which are often awarded as smaller contracts for local and specialist services, with long-term community benefit in mind.

Local Compacts can play an important role in helping to gain commitment to apply the Act in all procurement processes, by including a principle about this in revised Compacts. 

Voluntary organisations and the Social Value Act

The Social Value Act has changed how contracting authorities must assess and account for social value in service contracts, and for the first time has placed a requirement on commissioners to prioritise social considerations and wellbeing over cost.

This has opened the door for voluntary organisations to demonstrate their capabilities and achievements in delivering additional social value through service delivery.

Playing to our strengths: why voluntary organisations are good at social value

With social outcomes more easily identified by the voluntary sector, highlighting this maximum social value should be a priority for any voluntary organisation bidding for a service contract.

At a time when voluntary organisations are increasingly relied upon to deliver public services, the Compact can help to ensure a level playing field, encourage open and honest dialogue across sectors and establish a foundation for these relationships that ensures both sectors are treated fairly.

Intelligent commissioning through consultation can lead to:

  • savings from choosing a competitive grants process over full procurement
  • proportionate testing and evaluation of service
  • a clearer focus on specific outcomes.

Suggested actions for commissioning authorities

  • Follow the agreed principles of your local Compact.
  • Consult at all stages of the commissioning and procurement process.
  • Use your local Compact group to identify voluntary sector partners to engage in social value discussions. 
  • Work together to agree a definition of social value for your local Compact or include a commitment in renewed Compacts to this end.
  • Ensure the definition includes desired social outcomes and measures, and the role of voluntary organisations in achieving these.
  • Ensure interpretations are appropriate and recognise the capacity of voluntary organisations to provide social value, as part of a process of considering the quality of bids. 
  • Agree a joint social value strategy which is embedded across all procurement initiatives. 
  • Consider social value in all services, including lower value contracts. Write this in as a revised principle in your local Compact. 
  • Regularly view your social value strategy and principles alongside any review of local priorities. 
  • Apply social value considerations in the decommissioning of services; include this in your decommissioning strategy.

Commissioning and procurement: making the case

Implementing social value can seem challenging for those in public sector agencies. Where should they start, and what actions should they take? 

1. Define and lead

An assessment of local needs and challenges can help an organisation to develop a:

  • social value policy
  • strategy
  • charter with a set of local priorities.

This is a key first step. Appointing a dedicated member of staff to lead the process internally will help significantly.

2. Integration

Ensure that the whole organisation knows about the importance of social value and that this is considered across all services. Think carefully about how providers, or the local community, can be involved in design and delivery.

3. Think partnership

Very few social value priorities can be achieved by one sector or group of organisations. Think about how you can build long-term, cross-sector partnerships with the right incentives and introductions.

4. Measure appropriately

Even the best social value policies and partnerships are meaningless if they cannot be shown to make a difference. Understanding how to measure social value at different stages is critical.

These four steps provide a basic outline for commissioners and procurement professionals. They are based on research with local authorities and housing associations. More detail and information about each step can be found in Communities Count: the Four Steps to Unlocking Social Value (pdf, 1.95MB). 

Requirements on local authorities

The Social Value Act encourages contracting authorities to find innovative and more effective solutions to meet public need through the procurement of services.

It asks them to consider the wider economic, social and environmental benefits which could be built into the service specifications or as part of the wider contractual agreement with providers.

Procurement strategy

Adopting a long term strategic approach to procurement also leads to more cost effective service provision by tackling multiple issues in the community and for service users.

This is particularly important to note in a climate of reduced funding and increased pressure on public services.

Contracting authorities must:

  • follow the Act and take reasonable steps to consider whether additional social, economic or environmental benefits can be created through the delivery of a service
  • consider social value in a way that is proportionate and relevant to the service that is to be commissioned
  • consider the economic, environmental and social benefits of their approaches to procurement before beginning the process.

Recommended best practice for authorities

  • Take a value for money approach, rather than lowest cost, when assessing contracts.
  • Engage with voluntary organisations from the earliest stage to help shape policies, programmes and services.
  • Consult supply markets before formal procurement to develop robust and intelligent specifications.
  • Consider the most appropriate form of consultation, accounting for requirements of people and organisations being consulted, size of procurement, and likely impact of procurement.

Duty of Best Value

There is a requirement to consider the overall value contributed by providers, with the aim of encouraging greater voluntary sector and small and medium enterprise (SME) participation in public services.

This applies to commissioning public bodies such as:

  • local authorities
  • police forces
  • fire authorities
  • commissioners of transport services.

NHS Standards of Procurement

These are used to assess and benchmark NHS procurement performance and identify areas for improvement, providing a framework for consistent approaches and practices to deliver benefits across NHS procurement performance. 

Achieving social value through the voluntary sector

The Act’s guidance makes clear that the legislation is enabling and intentionally flexible so that authorities and communities are able to agree a local definition of social value suited to the needs and priorities of the local area.

Commissioning outside the box

Navigating procurement policy can be complicated, and can inhibit local authorities from commissioning more innovative services which strongly consider social value, but may appear more financially risky.

This has impacted on the confidence of commissioners and procurement officials to structure procurement processes and contract frameworks to gain the best deal for their communities.

A lack of joined up working between commissioning and procurement teams has also been cited as a barrier. These challenges could result in a loss of potential savings and leveraged resources to tackle wider community problems.

Support for the Act

To overcome this barrier, the Cabinet Office has introduced initiatives alongside the Social Value Act, to target support to public commissioners, such as:

  • the Commissioning Academy's development programme for senior commissioners from all parts of the public sector
  • the Cabinet Office’s lean standard operating process which places a strong emphasis on engagement with supply markets before procurement processes commence. 

A Compact Voice survey in 2013 found almost 85 per cent of LA respondents agreed that “the Social Value Act means public bodies will take the opportunity to fund with long-term community benefit in mind” .

This enthusiasm is evidenced in the range of initiatives local authorities have launched since the Act was enforced which include:

  • setting up a Social Value Taskforce
  • creating commissioner toolkits
  • issuing social value market statements to communicate desired outcomes to potential service providers.

Some councils have benefitted from creating a joint social value strategy with local stakeholders to underpin commissioning and procurement processes.

Local definitions

With a local definition of social value, it is easier to identify desired social outcomes and measures which meet local priorities and can be shared across all local commissioning bodies and their procurement strategies.

This ensures all activities meet the locally agreed objectives, as well as provide transparent and consistent messaging to service providers and bidders on the expectations of commissioners.

Monitoring and reporting on the implementation of the Act will also help contracting authorities to measure the extent to which procurement is taking account of value for money and social outcomes.

Social value and the Compact

The concept of social value has long been embedded in the national Compact. The Compact contains the following definition of social value:

“Social value encompasses a broad concept of value by incorporating social, environmental and economic costs and benefits."

This means that as well as taking into account the direct effects of interventions, the wider effects on other areas of the economy should also be considered.

Working in partnership

The Compact offers four specific circumstances in which social value should be considered by public authorities working with voluntary organisations.

  1. Agreeing and measuring outcomes in contracts
  2. Policy development
  3. Demonstrating social value 
  4. Decommissioning

The Compact expands on how social value can be used to underpin effective cross-sector partnership working, by providing principles which enable partners to achieve outcomes together.

Using the Compact as a tool to engage

Engagement with communities, providers and other stakeholders is important in order for public bodies to understand, define and communicate what social value means locally. They can articulate this in a social value strategy which underpins commissioning and procurement approaches.

Voluntary organisations as stakeholders

Voluntary organisations are an important stakeholder in this engagement process, as they have expertise across a range of social issues and sectors, and are playing an increasing role in service delivery.

With strong community links, voluntary organisations also plays a vital representative role for a range of groups, especially the most disadvantaged and hardest to reach communities.

Engaging with the sector will be essential for public commissioners when designing services to tackle issues such as:

  • unemployment
  • economic growth
  • reducing reoffending
  • dealing with multiple health and social issues.

The Compact is an important framework to help build strong partnership working between the public and voluntary sectors.

Sign up

Almost every local authority in England is signed up to a local Compact, which sets out agreed principles for a relationship that reflects local circumstances and goals.

Social value presents an opportunity for areas with inactive local Compacts to consider how to comply with the Act, and undertake complementary measures to reinvigorate their Compact.

Many areas already have an established local Compact group, with cross-sector partnership frameworks in place, and representation for contracting authorities, communities, service users and local service delivery partners.

This can be a useful forum to jointly define what social value means locally, and agree on a strategy which identifies social value outcomes and measures.

Collective benefit

In the public sector, social value can be a useful way of thinking about how limited resources are allocated. A public body should look beyond the price of a contract to examine the collective benefit to a community. 

Social value asks the question if £1 is spent on the delivery of services, can that £1 be used to produce a wider positive benefit to the community?

For example, a local authority awarding a contract to build a new school, may ask the provider to include:

  • careers training
  • education pathways
  • routes to employment.

This helps the authority meet wider objectives beyond the delivery of a new building.

Agreeing and measuring outcomes

Principle 3.6 of the national Compact sets out a clear expectation that public bodies consider social value before initiating a procurement process.

It also states that outcomes are agreed with voluntary organisations before a contract or funding agreement is made. These outcomes include:

  • social value
  • environmental value
  • economic value.

Setting outcomes

One approach, which would be consistent with Compact principles, is seeking agreement on a set of potential social value outcomes for each contract opportunity with potential bidders and service users during the pre-procurement stages.

Fostering strong and trusting cross-sector relationships is vital to developing this kind of engagement.

The Local Government Information Unit says:

“Building social value in a contractual arrangement goes beyond the content of the contract and relates directly to the quality of the relationship between commissioner and commissioned.”

Engaging with voluntary organisations can lead to a stronger relationship beyond the scope of service delivery.

This can lead to an improved understanding of service users and identified outcomes which can be built into the contract specifications of a commissioned service.

By adopting a partnership approach to commissioning, contracting authorities can produce better designed and more responsive services with robust measures to evaluate how far social value outcomes have been achieved.

How do you measure social value?

The key challenge most identify is measuring social value. There is practical guidance elsewhere on this site. Increasingly there is consistency and consensus among organisations that operate in the field, particularly on principles of reporting.

There are some important pieces of advice to bear in mind, regardless of whether you are thinking about measuring social value as a provider or as a commissioner.

  • Measurement should flow from a strong definition of a central mission or local social value priorities. Avoid diving directly into selecting a tool
  • Measurement should be proportionate. If you are a small organisation or are bidding for a small contract, measurement and reporting should be proportionate to the size and scale of the contract
  • Measurement should not be considered at the tender stage of the process – it needs to be part of contract management thereafter
  • Measurement approaches are based on principles. There are sets of principles available which aim to bring consistency to the field
  • There are many measurement tools. There is no need to invent a new one 
  • Work with networks of experts and practitioners to learn about good practice.

Demonstrating social value

Demonstrating and measuring impact has been a rising issue on the voluntary sector agenda in the last decade.

Evidence

The introduction of the Act has made it all the more important for voluntary organisations to evidence how they can deliver value for money and additional social benefits as this could be the difference between winning and losing a contract award.

Find out more about demonstrating your impact.

In an environment where voluntary organisations are delivering more public services and with an increased demand for transparency, robust evidence and appropriate reporting is critical to the longterm success and reputation of voluntary organisations .

Voluntary organisations should measure and report on agreed outcomes as set by the commissioner and identified in the contract specification.

Compact Principle 3.17 outlines the responsibility of voluntary organisations to "demonstrate the social, environmental or economic value of the programmes and services provided, where appropriate".

Evaluation

Proper monitoring, evaluation and measurement of social impact is beneficial for organisations as it can assist them in making improvements and adopting a more strategic approach to service delivery.

Read more on evaluating impact.

The Compact also places an expectation on public authorities to ensure “that monitoring and reporting is relevant and proportionate to the nature and size of the opportunity” (Principle 3.6).

Voluntary organisations should monitor the appropriateness of reporting requirements. In order to provide accurate and appropriate evidence, understanding the contracting authority’s pre-identified outcomes and preferred impact measurement tools, if specified, are essential.

Research in advance of a bid

Contacting lead procurement officials for further information to better understand contract specifications, and referring to any social value or procurement guidance and market statements issued by the commissioning body is recommended when making your bid application.

Some commissioners have employed other mechanisms to engage with their supplier market such as consultation or ‘meet the buyer’ events. These opportunities enable potential service providers to learn more about the local procurement strategy, process and future contract opportunities.

The last is important in giving organisations enough time to prepare resources and capacity to be able to deliver a contract.

Moreover this also helps build a stronger relationship with local commissioners so that issues or barriers in the supply market can be more easily addressed.

Advice

Steer away from open questions, in a tender process, such as 'what social value will you provide?' This is difficult to assess and compare. Establish a policy with priorities to address this.

  • Don't forget that if the contract is awarded, social value is part of your contract and must be incorporated into the management of your performance.
  • Don't reinvent the wheel. There are a lot of examples and resources to refer to. See the further information section at the end of this page.
  • Get trained up. Attend a social value course, or train colleagues and peers, to raise awareness and understanding of social value.

Myths

It is worth noting that there are commonly held myths about social value in commissioning and procurement which can be usefully dispelled.

For example, many assume that taking a social value approach will cost more. Actually 52 per cent of local authorities and housing associations say social value delivers cost savings.

Many believe that EU regulations may be a barrier to social value in the future. Again, in most cases, the opposite is true and EU procurement regulations are increasingly supportive of commissioning for wider social and environmental value.

Decommissioning

With continued reductions in public spending, public bodies are increasingly having to regularly review their service needs and funding arrangements with providers.

As the Social Value Act only applies to pre-procurement stages of contracts for services, public bodies seeking to end a contract are not required by legislation to consider the social impact of decommissioning a service.

This strengthens the need for principles of the Compact to be upheld during any decommissioning process.

Taking advice on changes

 

Before deciding to reduce or end funding for a service public bodies should seek advice from relevant voluntary groups on the social, environmental or economic impact of funding changes and assess the impact on their:

  • beneficiaries
  • service users
  • volunteers.

Principle 4 of the national Compact establishes clear arrangements for managing changes to programmes and services, to ensure:

  • full consideration
  • transparency
  • communication.

Consultation: when and who

Consultation is a key element in:

  • identifying priorities
  • improving understanding of issues
  • maintaining strong partnership working.

It is a core principle upheld in the Compact.

Poor consultation practice risks preventing organisations from responding or engaging with policy decisions which affect them. This means public bodies may not fully understand the depth and breadth of an issue.

Meaningful consultation when commissioning services provides further additional benefits for commissioners to get the most effective and best value deal.

It enables commissioners to better understand the supply market and provide notice to suppliers about upcoming procurement opportunities.

Potential bidders are then afforded preparation time to meet contract requirements and specifications.

Unique role

Voluntary organisations play a unique role in being able to share their knowledge and insight into the needs of communities and service users which can then feed into service design.

They also have a growing share in the supplier marketplace. In order to fully engage with the commissioning process, voluntary organisations require sufficient time to respond and gather evidence for public consultations, while maintaining day-to-day services.

It is important that commissioning bodies build this into their time frames when designing a service or contract, especially when seeking to build in social value specifications.

Policy development

Principle 2 in the national Compact outlines responsibilities for statutory and voluntary organisation partners to ensure ‘effective and transparent design and development of policies, programmes and public services’. 

Principle 2.1 states that partners must ensure "social, environmental and economic value forms a standard part of designing, developing and delivering policies, programmes and services"

Principle 2.3 sets out terms for proper engagement for public bodies to involve the sector at the "earliest possible stage to design policies, programmes and services" and ensure that "those likely to have a view are involved from the start and remove barriers that may prevent organisations contributing"

Principle 2.4 establishes the expectation for 12 week consultation period to allow partners to consult their stakeholders and produce a considered response. When circumstances prevent public bodies from meeting these requirements in full, reasons should be transparently explained.

Suggested actions for voluntary and community organisations

  1. Work together to agree a definition of social value for your local Compact or include a commitment in renewed Compacts to this end. Work towards a joint definition of social value that reflects the social outcomes desired, and clarify what can be achieved by voluntary organisations.
  2. Talk to statutory partners, in particular commissioning teams, about how they understand social value. It may be that contracting authorities have differing understandings of social value and how it should be implemented.
  3. Find out what social value frameworks have been established by local public bodies. Where a decision has not been made, seek an opportunity to jointly agree an approach that accounts for locally agreed priorities.
  4. Remind signatories of their commitment to ensure reporting expectations are reasonable and proportionate.
  5. Recognise that a requirement to collect accurate information on the social value you provide is reasonable.
  6. Gain commitment from statutory partners to extend the requirement for considering social value to all procurement opportunities.
  7. Train commissioners and procurement officers in understanding the Compact, and highlight the link between implementing both the Act and the Compact.
  8. Provide a voice for the community and service users.

Advocacy 

The voluntary sector position in public services is not limited to delivery, they also have a role in advocating on behalf of the groups they represent or have direct engagement with.

Engaging in the design and commissioning of services provides an opportunity to inform commissioners about current gaps in service provision and address barriers to access.

The distinction between commissioning and procurement

Commissioning and procurement are often used interchangeably; leading to the misconception that commissioning only considers contracting services.

Commissioning

In fact, commissioning is the process by which a statutory body:

  • analyses
  • plans
  • reviews

This informs how it allocates resources to achieve specified outcomes.

Procurement

Procurement is the purchasing of services. 

Representing your beneficiaries

Voluntary organisations should recognise and promote the value of their participation in this process of shaping plans for future service provision and social strategies for the local area.

In providing a voice for groups, especially the most disadvantaged or marginalised, organisations can help identify service criteria which meet local need.

As independent agencies in the community with direct access to customer experience of the service, voluntary organisations are often well-placed to monitor and inform providers and authorities about the quality of services.

Engaging with decision makers

In order to fulfil the advocacy role, voluntary organisations should try to engage with local decision making as early as possible and at every opportunity.

This includes:

  • monitoring local plans for service provision
  • attending consultation events
  • responding to written public consultations.

Principle 2 of the Compact outlines the roles and responsibilities of government to ensure effective and transparent design and development of policies, programmes and public services, and for voluntary organisations to actively promote and engage in the process.

Consultation

Clear and meaningful consultation processes are an important tool to share local intelligence and address issues which have a direct impact on service users and the wider community.

The Compact’s recommendation of 12-week consultation timescales (Principle 2.4) allows organisations sufficient time to collect robust evidence and consult with affected groups to provide good quality responses, which should lead to better design of future services.

Monitoring the quality of consultation processes is important to hold authorities to account in their duty to consult, and voluntary partners should make recommendations for how statutory bodies could remove barriers to engagement and improve redress.

Enabling user engagement

Voluntary organisations also have a duty to help beneficiaries understand statutory guidance and communications, especially for those who struggle to engage through traditional routes. This involves working with authorities to ensure communications reach affected stakeholders, and use language which is appropriate and accessible.

Improved understanding of their rights and expectations of services empowers individuals with a direct voice to engage and feedback on quality of service provision.

Making the case

It is important to note that public officials often work to rigid timescales with specific desired outcomes to meet, so making it as easy as possible for commissioners and procurement officials to engage with organisations is vital.

Clear explanation of the benefits of engagement such as how it will improve the service or local area, and how it will help achieve desired social outcomes is an effective way to frame dialogues and open discussions.

Providing relevant and robust evidence in accessible formats is an important part in supporting these activities to further influence change.

Creating a joint social value strategy

Reaching a local definition of social value is important for it to be effectively embedded into commissioning and service delivery practices. The Social Value Act is designed so local areas can set a definition that best reflects their distinct characteristics and local priorities, and enables them to shape commissioning and procurement frameworks.

Voluntary organisation involvement in this process is therefore important to ensure it best reflects the changes organisations want to see in their local area.

A social value strategy employs the local definition of ‘social value’ to identify desired social value outcomes and measures to achieve locally agreed priorities and improve the overall wellbeing of the local area.

A more concrete concept of social value can be embedded into the local council’s corporate policy and practice, and gain stronger commitment through adoption by all local commissioning bodies.

The legislation can lead to further opportunities to discuss wider issues with local authorities, for example how the sector can contribute to the achievement of desired social outcomes and what current barriers prevent taking a greater role in this process.

This includes issues in contract frameworks and procurement processes, capacity and resource, and strengthening the relationship between the local statutory bodies and voluntary organisations. 

Using your local Compact to open up dialogue on social value

Local Compact groups have provided a useful forum for local authorities and other commissioning bodies to connect with local voluntary sector partners through an established network.

Where a social value framework for the local area has not been decided, using your local Compact to negotiate these discussions can help establish open and transparent dialogue. This can allow partners to engage with the issue, as well as strengthen the commitments agreed by signatories in their local Compact.

Strengthening the Act

The Compact is also a good tool to strengthen the Act’s requirements by gaining a new commitment to extend social value considerations to all procurement opportunities. Utilising the local Compact group in the process of developing a social value strategy has more far-reaching benefits too.

There is no legal requirement for new commissioning structures such as Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) to sign up to their local Compact.

However engaging with them on the process of developing a strategy can promote the benefits of local Compact working to them, and encourage them to engage with the voluntary sector as well as the local Compact partnership or steering group.

A commissioning body signing up to a local Compact sends a strong message that they are willing to strengthen relationships with local voluntary organisations and continue working collaboratively on future plans for local service provision.

The Social Value Act also provides an opportunity to train commissioners and procurement officers in understanding the Compact.

Implementing the Act and the Compact

By highlighting the link between implementing both the Act and the Compact, training will help to ensure that commissioners associate Compact compliance with their statutory responsibilities for considering social value.

Examples of social value in commissioning

Bristol City Council’s commissioning of new Community Transport

By adopting an outcomes-based commissioning process, Bristol City Council was able to engage with service users, providers and other commissioners to design contract specifications for its community transport services.

Through representation on the Commissioning Project Board, Bristol’s Compact Liaison Officer identified the need to work with voluntary organisations in this process. The result had multiple positive impacts on the community and future of commissioning in the area, including:

  • service users identifying their own outcomes to maintain older and disabled peoples’ independence and to improve overall wellbeing, for a better designed service
  • commissioners gaining an increased knowledge of outcomes beyond procuring passenger journeys, with co- development of an outcomes framework with voluntary organisations
  • improved relationships between commissioners and providers leading to increased participation of providers and service users in commissioning processes.

Meaningful engagement for a social value strategy in Knowsley

In preparation for Act in January 2013, Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council took the initiative to set up a cross-sector partnership board with the local CVS and Chamber of Commerce Housing Trust, to begin to outline a local approach to social value.

By engaging early, the partnership board were able to outline initial outcomes and measures which identified with local priorities, and invite feedback from the community.

This was developed and discussed with members as part of scrutiny committees on localism and commissioning which led to the agreement of a social value policy statement.

The statement is now embedded into the Council’s four year corporate plan, as well as fully integrated into the Economic Regeneration Strategy, Procurement Strategy and City Region work on securing employment and skills through procurement.

With a strong partnership board established, a review structure is also in place to ensure the social value strategy remains fit for purpose and continues to address local priorities.

This is a good example of adopting a Compact approach by establishing strong partnerships to enable meaningful engagement and collaboration on local strategies, and maintain good communication to best meet public benefit and community need.

London Borough of Sutton Compact Group

Through the development of their new local Compact, the Sutton Local Compact Group widened its representation to include representatives of all the main commissioning directorates within the borough.

The revised steering group enabled the development of a number of key projects including a joint initiative to develop a local framework to measure social value in the local commissioning process. By using the Compact group as a forum to develop these policies, the framework will be embedded in all commissioning and procurement activities in the Borough and supported by all commissioners.

A further additional benefit of engagement through the local Compact group has been the review of the voluntary sector’s role in the community and the support it will require to strengthen its capacity and meet future challenges. This has resulted in London Borough of Sutton committing funding and providing premises for the voluntary sector to help meet those needs.

Further resources and practical advice

Page last edited Sep 11, 2017

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