Social Value Act is 'an afterthought', Lords charities committee told

06 Dec 2016 News

The Social Value Act is either not referred to or is "an afterthought" in public sector commissioning, a Lords committee heard yesterday.

The Social Value Act requires people who commission public services to think about how they can also secure wider social, economic and environmental benefits. Giving evidence to the committee on commissioning, Andrew Seager, head of service development at Citizens Advice, said the Act often only accounts for a small percentage of the tender process – usually around five per cent. 

He said: “So my conclusions from that is that it is popping up, but not at a level where I would expect it to be seen. It is almost like the afterthought.”

Seager said the question is posed to the suppliers about what they could do to show social value instead of the commissioner saying that they care about doing this.

"It never appeared in a framework agreement, and it is deliberately fluid and not defining at all what it means," he said. "I actually think more is needed on understanding and skills for commissioners about how the act translates into commissioning practice."

The committee asked those giving evidence whether the act should be amended to prioritise organisations that secure wider social, economic and environmental benefits, instead of just requiring commissioners to have consideration for those benefits.

Jacob Tas, chief executive of Nacro, who was also giving evidence, said he felt this was a positive move, but that he was unsure how it could work in practice.


Seager said that devolution may be an oppurtunity to overhaul commissioning and make it more beneficial to individuals.

He said: “It takes skill and investment from the charity sector and commissioners to get that right. But I am optimistic that opportunities like devolution are a chance to tear the rule book up and go, right how are we going to get this to work to get better opportunities for individuals and communities.”

Pressed on the benefits of devolution, he said: “Devolution is a great opportunity, and it is a great opportunity that we should all see. We are a diverse sector, we are not the easiest to talk to sometimes and we don’t have a shared voice.”

Tas, however, had a different view.

He said: “I am maybe still scarred by the massive programme of Transforming Rehabilitation. I understand that devolution might be an opportunity to fund things around individuals and their needs, but I think it will throw everything up again – accountability will be unclear, there will be lots of new rules. So let’s make sure that the return on investment is as good as anticipated for that time of upheaveal.”

Dan Scorer, head of policy and public affairs at Mencap, who was also giving evidence, said his number one recommendation for the committee would be to “ensure that commissioning practice focuses on the needs of individuals, and from their lived experience, and works with organisations that can meet their specific needs”.

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