BSSEC CIC: Procurement and VCSE Advisory Group Update

Bi-monthly, I’m invited to attend (with other national and regional VCSE sector agencies) the VCSE Advisory Group hosted by Claire Dove. It is always interesting and from this month we have decided here at BSSEC CIC to share the highlights. The purpose of this group is to advise on how VCSE’s can become part Governments supply chain. We hear regularly of the progress of different Government departments and its very helpful to hear of specific interventions and approaches that are being utilised.

Claire describes her role ‘as the Crown Representative for the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector (VCSE), I act as an intermediary between government and the charity and social enterprise sectors to champion the Public Services (Social Value) Act and improvements in commissioning and procurement practices. As part of this, I am very keen to work with all government departments to share best practice and to promote the benefits of working with VCSE organisations.

DCMS have their own action plan for engagement.

The headlines include having their own VCSE champion and clear targets to increased VCSE participation in their contracts.

An independent study commissioned by DCMS found there are an estimated 250,000 VCSEs active in the UK.

Of these, it’s estimated that between 9,200 and 12,500 VCSEs engage in government contracting each year( between 3% – 5% of active VCSEs).

VCSEs operate in a variety of sectors and are well known to operate in ‘people-services’. VCSE participation in public procurement is most prominent in the below eight markets, with health and social care by far the largest market for VCSEs:

      > health and social care

      > disability

      > employability

      > offender rehabilitation

      > legal and advocacy

      > domestic violence

      > sexual abuse

      > homelessness

      > youth services

The research report found clear evidence of specialisms offered by VCSEs being recognised in the procurement of services relating to disability, employability, and vulnerable adults.

Social Procurement Supply and Demand

DCMS is focused on addressing the following barriers to participation:

      > definition and understanding of the sector

      > supply chain issues

      > awareness of opportunities

      > contracts marked as suitable for VCSEs

      > contract design

Different interventions are currently being put in place but of real interest to our sector is the Contract Readiness Program being rolled out by the School for Social Entrepreneurs funded through DCMS.

Contract opportunities will be found on Contracts Finder and large contract holders (tier one) are required to provide data on amounts of money spent with VCSE’s.  

Strategic Suppliers to Government  

There have been some issued raised recently regarding how some suppliers for example in health and social care and children’s services are treating VCSE’s shoddily. If this is the case there is the Public Procurement Review Service  where VCSE’s can lodge complaints that will be investigated. These are reported to the Crown Representative Board and many issues are successfully resolved. Claire Dove is also happy to intervene as Crown Representative to the VCSE.

Contact me, Sarah Beaumont, and I will forward any concerns.

For more information on public sector and social procurement, please contact

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