The government will prioritise involving more small and medium-sized organisations, including charities, in government contracts as part of a drive to consider social impact to a greater extent in the public sector.
In an announcement made today at Social Enterprise UK’s social value summit in central London, Oliver Dowden, Minister for Implementation at the Cabinet Office, said the government wanted services to pay far more attention to social impact when putting contracts out to tender.
This would include the use of small businesses, social enterprises and charities, as well as making progress on issues such as preventing modern slavery, encouraging diversity and improving environmental protections, he said.
The government has targeted making small and medium-sized organisations responsible for a third of government contracts by 2022.
Last year, the government announced it was seeking to strengthen the social value act and increase its commitment to social value by making it an explicit requirement in central government contracts.
Dowden told delegates at the social value summit that smaller organisations and charities could act as the "eyes and ears" of central government services in local communities.
"It is those firms that deliver services in communities," Dowden said. "Firms of all shapes and sizes are often closest to the communities they serve, and these firms are often our best eyes and ears.
"They are working tirelessly within their communities and, by working closely together, we can ensure our contracts meet the needs of the public."
A 12-week public consultation will also take place imminently to gauge the views of industry.
In a statement, David Lidington, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said: "It is right that we demand the organisations we work with meet the high standards we need to protect our environment and employ workforces that represent our diverse society, including people with disabilities and those from ethnic minorities.
"By making sure these social values are reflected not just across the government, but also through all the companies we work with, we will take a major step towards our goal of creating an economy that works for everyone."
Lord Victor Adebowale, chair of SEUK, said it was good to see the government "showing leadership" and embedding social value across its contracts.
"Social value should not be seen as a luxury in any part of the public or private sectors, but as common sense," he said.
"People expect modern government and business to ensure that all spending considers the needs of our society and environment. Social enterprises have been pioneers, but it is important that every sector follows."