Putting social value procurement into practice

16 July 2012
The introduction of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 leaves public sector procurement teams with yet another thing to consider when tendering for services. Many organisations are probably wondering what the legislation will mean in practice and whether it will make any real difference. Here at Southwark Council, we’ve been thinking about the social value of our suppliers for some time. When tendering for a new catering supplier in 2010, we wanted a provider which could provide not just good quality food and value for money, but also social value for money. Rather than opting for a commercial company, we appointed Unity Kitchen – a social enterprise run by the Camden Society charity - to fulfil our three-year catering contract. As well as providing quality and affordable food, Unity Kitchen provides paid apprenticeships and employment opportunities for local people with learning disabilities. And any profit is also reinvested to provide additional opportunities for people with disabilities across London. When the Southwark Council Unity Kitchen opened it immediately created fourteen new jobs for local people with disabilities, who were otherwise in receipt of day services funded by the council, therefore saving taxpayers’ money. For one 51-year-old lady, becoming an apprentice at the Unity Kitchen was the first time she had ever a job. Debbie has been awarded NVQs in food preparation and baking and is now a fully paid commis chef. The Camden Society recently conducted market research with ICM to gain an insight into the public’s views on catering social enterprises. It found that 3 per cent of people working in the UK who currently bring their lunch in from home everyday would instead buy it from an outlet that benefitted their local community if they had the chance. It might sound like a relatively small percentage, but when you apply this to the entire workforce, we’re talking about over 700,000 people. Social enterprises like Unity Kitchen tick all the right boxes – they meet the requirements of the new legislation, are popular with employees and help to create jobs and training for local, disadvantaged people. They provide a win-win solution for public sector organisations looking for social value for money as well as quality from suppliers. ☛  Councillor Claire Hickson is cabinet member for communities and economic development at Southwark Council
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