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Social Value Act: Suffolk needs your organisation’s experiences

Following our response to the Social Value Act Review by Lord Young (below), Community Action Suffolk is conducting a survey to obtain a Suffolk VCS response to the implementation of the Act in Suffolk and its impact on commissioning.

The survey is for any VCS organisation in Suffolk so that we can get an overall review of how the Social Value Act has impacted on the sector, particularly those who have had experience of delivering/applying for contracts of work.

We would be grateful if you could complete this short survey below to incorporate your organisation’s experiences.

CAS response to the Social Value Act

What is the Social Value Act 2012?

Published in 2012 and implemented in UK law in January 2013, the act asks public bodies, by law for the first time, to consider societal benefits (social value) as part of each decision on commissioning and procuring public services.  It applies to all public services contracts and those with only an element of goods or works.  It also only technically applies to contracts above EU procurement thresholds i.e. procurement over £173k.

According to “Best Value Statutory Guidance, September 2011”; for local authorities, under their duty to achieve ‘best value’ they must already consider social, economic and environmental value.  The Act therefore, should not be too far removed from current practices and can be placed in line with best practice models.

So what is happening now?

Towards the end of 2014, Lord Young was asked to review the act and its implementation so far.  His report was published in February 2015 and has found a real variation in application across the country by local commissioners.

The main finding of the review was that “…where it has been taken up, it has had a positive effect, encouraging a more holistic approach to commissioning which seeks to achieve an optimal combination of quality and best value.” (Lord Young’s Foreword, Social Value Act Review 2015).

However, the key to this statement are the words “where it has been taken up”.  There are a number of qualifiers to the use of the act as described above.  The review suggests that ‘whole’ approach to social value in commissioning is most successful i.e. where a local authority applies integration of social value to all commissioning regardless of the type of service or the EU threshold.

Indeed, the EU procurement threshold is set to rise this year from £173k to £700k.  The review has found that this would be detrimental to the application of the act as it is tied to that threshold.  Lord Young has therefore asked the Minister for the Cabinet Office to enact an amendment so that the current threshold remains for implementation of the act.  This is welcome news.

The challenges to the implementation of the act remain and have been identified independently by the review.  There is still a lack of understanding about the advantages of commissioning for social value and how to apply it effectively.  In addition, there is still a need for commissioners to be better able to measure and quantify social outcomes to support application.  Lord Young has made various recommendations for how to tackle these issues and to increase awareness and ‘take up’ of the act.  He has therefore recommended that there is more to do to improve the reach and application of the act in it’s current format before the possibility of extending it following a further review to take place within the next two years.

What happens now?

NCVO have published their response to the review.

Essentially, Community Action Suffolk is in agreement with NCVO and their recommendations for the strengthening of the act and legislative change.  This would help Suffolk’s contracting authorities to implement their own social value policy and incorporate the act further in their commission.  Much of it is about the terms used in the act to ensure robust implementation.  NCVO recommends the following changes:

  1. The Act should be extended beyond services to goods and work
  2. The requirement that public bodies ‘consider’ social value in public sector contracts should be upgraded so that they must ‘account for’ social value.
  3. The requirement that public bodies ‘consider’ consulting when looking to include social value in procurement should be strengthened so that they must ‘account for’ consultation.
  4. The government should remove reference to the EU procurement threshold.

“These modest changes alongside a high-quality guidance and training offer could have a substantial impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of public procurement, and provide significant savings further down the line through prevention and other social benefits.” NCVO Response to the Review of the Social Value Act

What now for Suffolk?

Suffolk County Council is currently developing a social value policy to be built into its good practice guide to commissioning, grant funding, contract management and procurement.  This is a step forward for the county and demonstrates a commitment from the local authority.  In addition, they are reviewing the good practice guide for commissioning, contract management, grant funding and procurement 2014.  Both of these involve consultation with the VCS in Suffolk through Suffolk Congress and Community Action Suffolk.

The VCS in Suffolk have an important role to play in this process, not just through responding to consultation, but also in following important elements of good practice:

  1. Understand the needs in Suffolk and commissioners priorities: Suffolk County Council have 5 key priorities to:
  • Raise educational attainment and skill levels
  • Support the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) to increase economic growth
  • Maintain roads and develop Suffolk’s infrastructure
  • Support those most vulnerable in our communities
  • Empower local communities
  1. Think about how social value can be incorporated and embedded into your core activities
  2. Identify your social value offer and how it is relevant to the types of contracts you could bid for
  3. Quantify your social value offer: your organisation must consider how you measure and review your social value and impact
  4. Use social value as a route to commissioners through engaging with pre-consultation when it is available

To ensure effective implementation of the Act in Suffolk there are important roles for both Commissioners and Providers in the VCS.  Both parties must take responsibility for their own involvement to make this a success in Suffolk and ensure the best outcomes for those living and working in our county.

Click here for the Social Value Act survey

For more information, contact:

Hannah Bradley, Senior Development Officer – VCS Economy & Enterprise
[email protected]
01473 345332