Interview: Richard Litchfield

Third sector bidding consortium 3SC last week won a contract to deliver 4,000 jobs under the Government's Future Jobs Fund. The organisation's interim chief executive talks to David Ainsworth

Richard Litchfield
Richard Litchfield

For an organisation that has existed for less than a year, and which won its first contract last July, third sector bidding consortium 3SC is doing well.

Last week, the consortium won a contract to deliver 4,000 jobs under the Government's £1bn Future Jobs Fund, making it one of the largest providers and taking the total number of jobs it is contracted to deliver under the scheme to more than 7,000.

Richard Litchfield, interim chief executive of the consortium, says he is determined not to stop there.

"We've already got a turnover of about £45m, but we're expecting that to grow," he says. "We're aiming eventually to have it in the hundreds of millions - with most of that money going to third sector organisations that provide our services."

The 3SC idea is simple: charities have traditionally found it hard to bid for government contracts because they lack the scale and expertise to do so effectively. By bringing together many organisations, small and large, to bid together, 3SC solves those problems.

It already has about 100 charities providing services and 500 member charities that could do so. 3SC expects the latter to rise to about 1,000 by the end of the year.

The consortium has put in bids for the Community Taskforce and Progress to Work initiatives, which are worth about £100m between them, and has been shortlisted in more areas around the UK than any other provider.

"Our eventual vision is to be a social enterprise Serco," says Litchfield, who remains chief executive of social investment consultancy Eastside Consulting, one of 3SC's founding partners.

"We can deliver an awful lot more public sector contracts than we're doing at the moment. I believe that only 2 per cent of government contracts are delivered by this sector. We can increase that. There's scope for third sector provision to increase, even if the overall pot gets smaller.

"We're planning to expand from job services into other areas - particularly health and social care."

But he says fulfilling contracts effectively is even more important than winning them. "We're in a position to prove that the third sector is better at public service delivery than for-profit organisations," he says.

"At the moment there is anecdotal evidence that this is the case. We're going to be in a position to provide hard evidence by outperforming the private sector providers we're competing with."

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