Brits trust social enterprises more than private companies, survey reveals

New research has found that Brits trust social enterprises more than private companies to deliver outsourced public services – and believe they do so with more efficiency and value for money.

The survey was commissioned and paid for by E3M, an initiative developed and managed by Social Business International that supports leaders from some of the largest UK social enterprises that trade in public service markets. 

Pollster YouGov asked a sample of 2,062 adults from among the general public about their attitudes towards public service delivery.

It found that 84% of respondents were aware that public bodies such as local councils and the NHS subcontract some services to other businesses. Asked to choose between social enterprises or private enterprises delivering these, one-third of respondents expressed no preference, but nine out of 10 people who did, chose social enterprises. 

The survey also found that over half (51%) of the public agree it is a risk to subcontract local public services to private enterprises, whereas just 24% say subcontracting to social enterprises is risky.

Catch 22 is one organisation delivering public services  – including justice and rehabilitation, gang intervention work, programmes covering substance misuse, victim support, education, employability and children’s social care. CEO Chris Wright said: “All too often, the state still sees itself as the owner and producer of statutory services, when it could take a more useful role as a convenor. If we’re really serious about changing the outcomes for people who need these services, we must challenge this status quo. We must work out what type of organisation is best placed to deliver a service, and then support them. It’s heartening to see the public are on the side of social enterprises being firmly rooted in service delivery.”

The findings will back E3M’s call for local authorities to awarding more contracts to social enterprises, as a way to offer better quality, better value and better outcomes for society. 

Jonathan Bland, managing director of Social Business International, said local authorities “need to take this YouGov research seriously. The mood has changed: the public wants a different model of outsourcing that they trust, one which uses profits to benefit society rather than building shareholder value."

Separately, research published today by Fusion 21, a social enterprise that helps its members access procurement opportunities, found that almost two thirds of public procurement professionals think social value has become a more important part of their work over the last 12 months. The Procurement Trends Report is based on responses from 100 people representing 92 organisations in the housing, local authority, education, emergency services and health sectors.

The findings come as the UK government is analysing responses to a consultation on how it should take account of social value in the award of central government contracts, and will be seen as a boost to those calling for a much stronger role for social enterprises.

Over £200bn is spent each year by the UK public sector on services and goods from third parties, according to figures from both the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and Social Enterprise UK.

Header photo: Catch 22 staff ready to go to work within a prison

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