“Social value” is a way of thinking about how scarce resources are allocated and used. It involves looking beyond the price of each individual contract and looking at what the collective benefit to a community is when a public body chooses to award a contract. Social value asks the question: ‘If £1 is spent on the delivery of services, can that same £1 be used, to also produce a wider benefit to the community?’
The Public Services (Social Value) Act came into force on 31st January 2013. It requires people who commission public services to think about how they can also secure wider Social, Economic and Environmental benefits. This led to many public sector procurements including social value questions and requirements in their tenders, but not on a consistent basis.
In September 2020, a Procurement Policy Note – Taking Account of Social Value in the Award of Central Government Contracts – was released, noting that every central government procurement must have a 10% weighting of social value from 1st January 2021. This guidance has subsequently been adopted by many other public sector bodies.
Trends and Responding
In-line with legislation, almost all public procurement now has at least 10% of scoring assigned to social value. We have even seen a trend with some councils, mainly urban ones, where social value is 20% or even higher.
There is no consistency across social value bid questions or requirements, but there are a few trends as noted below:
- Open-ended questions – relying on the bidder to research and understand the commissioner/buyer social value priorities and propose their own measures to meet these
- Targeted ask – where you are given specific measures that the commissioner/buyer wants you to support, such as employing local people
- List of measures – where you are given a big list of measures that the commissioner/buyer has suggested, but you are not expected to support all of them.
Regardless of the question/requirements, always tell the commissioner/buyer what you WILL DO, linking it to their priorities and showing explicit and quantifiable benefit.
It’s for all Organisations
Regardless of the size of your organisation, you can deliver social value, and you can do it in a cost-effective and high scoring way.
As a starting point, consider what you are already doing – e.g.:
- Charitable donations
- Volunteering hours
- Looking after your staff and their physical and mental wellbeing
- Recycling and energy efficiency
You can turn these existing initiatives and activities in forward-facing and contract-specific commitments.
You can probably also do a lot more than you think you can. In some cases it could be as easy as implementing specific Equality and Diversity Training, or having a Green Travel plan to minimise car journeys and carbon emissions.
In all cases, you do not have to throw lots of money at social value to make a tangible impact or score high marks. Be creative with your ideas, ensure they are realistic and achievable, and quantify exactly what you can do (e.g. you will support three apprentices per contract year).
How To Record It
If you are not currently recording your Social Value at an organisational and service level, you need to consider doing so now. This will support you in providing evidence of existing delivery, as well as making it easier for you to come up with initiatives and commitments for future tenders.
One option for recording is the Social Value Portal, which many local authorities use and require you to use as part of a procurement. The Social Value Portal is very helpful and includes all of the National TOMs (Themes Outcomes Measures), which you can measure yourself against and have a £ value for each. The Social Value Portal does though incur a cost, particularly for SMEs.
As an alternative, consider creating an internal tracking spreadsheet/database that clearly shows what you are doing, where you are doing, and any quantifiable values you can track.
Why You Should Do It
If you are bidding for public sector work, you will have to do deal with social value. You may also have to deal with it for business-to-business tenders, where the contracting organisation is delivering public sector work, and requires you to contribute to their social value commitments.
Either way, without approaching social value in a serious and constructive way, you will miss out on significant marks in a bid, which could be the difference between winning and losing.
Also consider the wider benefits to delivering social value, including good PR and marketing material, and perhaps most of all, it is often the right thing to do.
How Contracts Advance Can Support You
Contracts Advance have a range of service offers to help you maximise your Social Value scores:
- Healthchecks – reviewing where you currently are with Social Value and how you can improve
- Training – giving you the skills to write Social Value responses and tailor your commitments to the commissioner/buyer
- Response Writing – focussing only on the Social Value questions in a bid, we will write your answers and help you come up with bid-specific commitments and measures.
Social Value is crucial to your chances of success in winning public sector contracts. Get organised and have a strategy in place now and let Contracts Advance support you to maximise your Social Value scores and give you the best chance of winning new business.