Government plans for embedding social value in contracts 'do not go far enough'

A response to a consultation on social value in government by three sector bodies says the government's proposals should be only 'a first step' to a new approach

Government proposals on embedding social value "would not go far enough" if implemented, three charity sector umbrella bodies have told a government consultation.

The Charity Finance Group, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and the Small Charities Coalition said in a joint response to the consultation on social value in government, which closed today, that the government’s proposals should be only a "first step in implementing a different approach to procurement and commissioning".

Earlier this year, the government announced plans for greater prioritisation of small and medium-sized organisations, including charities, when contracting out public services.

David Lidington, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, announced last year that the social value act would be strengthened to ensure all government departments explicitly evaluate social value when commissioning services.

But the consultation response says that the government’s current approach "risks creating barriers" to voluntary organisations, especially small or medium-sized organisations.

It warned that charities could be used as "social value bid candy" by organisations wanting to deliver public services, but without committing to considering social value throughout the contract itself.

The response raised concerns that many barriers for embedding social value highlighted in a review of the social value act in 2015 by the Conservative peer Lord Young were not resolved by the government’s proposals.

This included tackling a lack of awareness of social value and getting buy-in from senior leaders, the response says.

The government should also consider an outcomes-based approach to social value, the response says, rather than an overly prescriptive evaluation model.

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