Public sector buyers 'should generate work for young people through contracts'

Will Green is news editor of Supply Management
27 April 2014

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28 April 2014 | Will Green

Public sector buyers should commit to generating 12 months of work for a “marginalised young person” for every £1 million spent, a charity has urged.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) said poverty in the UK is growing and social mobility is declining and it was “important that all public expenditure is used in the fight against unemployment and associated poverty”.

In a report the charity said: “Tackling poverty through employment is an essential element of the UK’s sustainable development framework that every contracting authority needs to consider, not just those focusing on poverty and disadvantage.

“Significant impacts on poverty and social mobility would be achieved if the entire UK public sector was committed to generating a year’s work for a person from a target disadvantaged community for each £1 million in contract value.”

The report said Glasgow Housing Association had given 1,158 apprentices and trainees almost 60,000 weeks of employment through 35 contracts, while Birmingham City Council had created 306 jobs, including 82 apprenticeships, through its £193 million library contract.

The JRF said processes for sustainable procurement in England were “relatively weak” on social measures to address poverty, whereas the Scottish and Welsh devolved assemblies have “more highly-developed policies and practices”.

The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 has “the potential to improve the position in England” but it is “limited in scope”, said the charity.

“UK and EU frameworks support the inclusion of social and community benefits in public procurement, provided this does not disadvantage non-local bidders,” said the report. “Drafting of the specification can accommodate this, typically by requiring the successful contractor to work with named local agencies linked to the targeted community.”

The report said social enterprises “faced barriers” in competing for larger contracts and, like SMEs, would benefit from breaking up big contracts into smaller lots.

Report author Richard MacFarlane said: “Do young people need to stand in line behind the more skilled and experienced before they get the chance of the job-with-training that will make them more employable? Targeted recruitment and training can help address the lack of opportunity experienced by young people. This is an approach that is now ready to be scaled-up through action across UK government procurement, to help address a problem that may otherwise scar the lives of a generation of young job-seekers.”

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