Quick guide to the Social Value Act launched

One of the UK’s leading social impact banks, Unity Trust, has joined forces with top charity and social enterprise law firm BWB to launch a new guide on how to make best use of the Social Value Act.

The Social Value Act Quick Guide, written by BWB and produced by Pioneers Post, gives a 10-minute digest of the legislation and its potential impact, as well as an analysis of the opportunities and challenges it presents, and signposting to further information.

The guide was launched today by Peter Kelly, business development and marketing director at Unity, at the Social Value Conference hosted in Birmingham by Social Enterprise West Midlands.

Joining him were Nick Hurd MP, Minister for Civil Society, and Chris White MP for Warwick and Leamington Spa – who originally tabled the legislation as a Private Members Bill.

In a separate announcement, White was also named today as the UK’s new ‘Social Value Ambassador’.

Kelly said Unity Trust Bank ‘wholeheartedly supports’ the legislation.

He said: ‘We know that it can be challenging, especially in the current economic climate, for public sector commissioners to see beyond a financial bottom line. The new Act aims to help – by ensuring that local authorities, the NHS and other public bodies consider the social good offered by bidders during the procurement process, alongside price and quality.

‘As a social enterprise ourselves, Unity is committed to this “double bottom line” approach to business – using our commercial success to enable social development in the communities we serve, and so contributing to a more sustainable society. We hope this quick guide provides those in the social sector with a clear overview of what the Act means and the opportunities available, and we look forward to seeing positive impact for our customers and their communities as the legislation takes effect.'

Abbie Rumbold, partner in the charity and social enterprise team at BWB, said: ‘We are delighted to have written this guide – commissioning for social value can transform the delivery of public services and we hope that this guide will contribute to that process of positive change.’

This Social Value Act, which received Royal Assent on 8 March 2012 and was implemented on 31 January 2013, calls for all public service commissioning to factor in social value. For the first time, all public bodies in England and Wales, including local authorities, will be required to consider how the services they commission and procure might improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of the area.

Commenting separately on the announcement of Chris White as the government’s social value ambassador, Ben Kernighan, deputy chief executive of NCVO, said: ‘The creation of this post is very welcome news at a time when we were beginning to worry about the pace at which the social value act is being taken up. Charities contribute a huge amount to their communities and many could help to transform public services if they were able to compete for contracts on a more level playing field. I’m confident that Chris will be a relentless advocate for the principles of social value in all public sector procurement. His campaigning won round the government, and I hope he can now win round commissioners across the country. He has our full support in doing so.’

Peter Holbrook, CEO of Social Enterprise UK, said the Act was already being embedded by public sector commissioners and councils in England and Wales who wanted to use their spending power to create lasting social change in villages, towns and cities.

‘It gives commissioners the green light to choose providers that are committed to delivering community prosperity and wealth – like social enterprises and charities,’ he said. ‘We’ve seen local authorities like Birmingham, East Sussex and Knowsley already pick up the baton, and Liverpool City Council announced the first Social Value Taskforce to support commissioners to use the Act.’

Hobrook added: ‘We’re also beginning to witness a real shift in the way private sector companies do business as a result of the legislation. Landmarc, manager of much of the Ministry of Defence training estate, has taken action to create social value. They are seeking to procure more from social enterprises, work more closely with their local communities, increase their apprenticeship programme, and are planning to employ more ex-military personnel.’

The Quick Guide can be downloaded in our Publications section.