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‘Much more to do’ on social value

While commissioners are now more confident using the Social Value Act, providers say that more support and guidance is needed.

New research from Social Enterprise UK found that 81% of commissioners surveyed have taken steps to use the Act and more than 75% said their organisation has issued tenders using social value as a criterion.

But while 31% of commissioners and procurement staff feel there is a lack of guidance and support, 51% of providers feel this way.

The research is published ahead of the anniversary of the Act, 31 January.

Olof Jonsdottir, public affairs manager and social value lead at Social Enterprise UK said: “The results of this survey are encouraging. The Act is a terrifically valuable piece of legislation, and has lit a touchpaper in some places. But it has too often been dismissed as something that, in the absence of statutory guidance, commissioners might ignore.

“We’re pleased at the results, which suggest that the informing and awareness-raising that public and social sector bodies have done is working. But there is much more to do. This is a self-selecting group and we may assume the commissioners represented are supportive of the Act. Anecdotal evidence still tells us there’s a lag in a number of places, where commissioning and procurement staff are not applying the Act nearly so well.

“Our main concern is that providers – the social enterprises, charities and other organisations that are selling their services to public bodies – feel they need more guidance. This is not too surprising, given that most of the guidance and support so far has been directed at public bodies. Social sector bodies have done a good job producing guidance – almost half of providers have heard about the Act via these sources.

“But the gap leaves the sector vulnerable. There needs to be greater co-ordination of all the information that exists to help all organisations use the Act. We don’t want to see our members losing out to larger private firms that can invest much more money in understanding the Act and winning tenders on it. We’re glad that public bodies are using social value criteria – now it’s time to ensure our members are as good as they can be at proving they have the competitive advantage on social value. They campaigned long and hard for this Act.”

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