Public services and social value

The combined factors of public austerity, new approaches to service delivery and the passage into law of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012  have pushed the concept of ‘social value’ right to the top of the policy agenda.

BSSEC has been awarded a grant by the Barrow Cadbury Trust to enable us to work with Birmingham City Council, social enterprises and voluntary organisations to create a framework which can guide stakeholders through the Act and help realise social value.

What does this Act mean?

Put simply, the new legislation means that when public authorities buy goods or services it is no longer enough that they get value for money. They must also secure wider social, environmental or economic benefits for the communities they serve.

However, in order to incorporate social value legitimately into contract specifications it will be necessary for a local authority to define specific, verifiable social value outcomes that are part of the purchase and which form a clear part of the award criteria. This means that at some point, social enterprises that win public service contracts are going to have to be able to measure and verify the social value they have contracted to  deliver as part of the transaction.

We are a long way from knowing what that will look like in practice, but that is where this work is headed — helping social enterprises realise the competitive advantage that this new legislation should offer them.

As the project progresses we will also be working with social enterprises to brief them on the local authority’s intended useage of social value legislation and help with the question of how social value is evidenced and demonstrated by social enterprises.

→ The official version of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 and Explanatory notes on the Act.

Read more on the next page — Birmingham City Council and Social Value