Social value — time for a ‘reality check’?

Third Sector magazine has just published a long piece which considers how well — or otherwise — the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 is being implemented by local authorities and other public bodies.

You can read the article here.  Birmingham City Council is featured as a good practice case study.

It’s good sensible stuff and very much bears out our own research and practical work over the past two years undertaken as part of a Barrow Cadbury Trust-funded project.

Yes, implementation is patchy. Some local authorities have forged ahead, but some are struggling. No, the legislation hasn’t delivered the bounty of contracts some in the sector believed would be the case, and it is true that currently data, intelligence and good practice on social value are poor.

And yet, on the other hand, considering the pressures — financial and otherwise — local authorities are currently operating under it is frankly a miracle that progress on social value is happening at all.

Many authorities have acted quickly to develop practical strategies to make the legislation operational. This is certainly the case in Birmingham. Birmingham City Council was amongst the first to adopt a social value policy and has gone beyond the minimum requirements of the Act by applying social value to all of its procurement — not just services (as the Act requires) but goods too, and not just contracts above the EU thresholds but to contracts of all values.

Practical experience and the sharing of this experience are key now to continued progress on social value.  Which is why in the coming weeks we are delivering two different kinds of workshops:

  • First, we are holding a second roundtable event for public sector commissioners on the 9th June [details and booking arrangements here] and
  • Starting on the 11th June, running a series of practical workshops and support sessions for social enterprises and trading third sector organisations that want to rise to the challenge of the new legislation [details and booking arrangements here].


We also hope to continue our work on social value, specifically to gather intelligence and data more widely so that this learning can be shared — and with a particular emphasis on evidencing and monitoring social value outcomes.

If the sector wants to see better, faster progress on social value, then the sector has to help create this. It should offer practical help, collaboration and support to struggling authorities to help ensure that the new legislation can deliver as it should for local communities.

Read more about social value on the BSSEC website:

 Public services and social value

 Birmingham City Council and social value

 Useful resources on social value

→ Read our report, One Year On: Implementing the Social Value Act in Public Sector Procurement

 All blog posts tagged ‘social value’

Birmingham UK. Freelance research, evaluation and policy consultant specialising in social enterprise and the third sector. I maintain the BSSEC blog and website

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