For many years the predetermined overriding factor in public sector procurement has be Value for Money (VfM) or Most Economically Advantageous Tender (MEAT).  This has resulted in many cases of simply driving down the price and ultimately the service received.

More recently we have seen public procurement change how it calculates and awards its service provision contracts taking into account other wider elements.  One of these elements being Social Value.

Is it a buzzword? Having worked for both the public and private sector Social Value is second nature to me, either looking to embed it into a tender issue and how to demonstrate we will actually offer it when responding to a tender and delivering the contract.  It’s an important element to any bid, not to be ignored!

Is it a benefit? I see Social value as an extra benefit brought to a community via the direct purchasing of goods, services and outcomes. Often centred on socio-economic and environmental issues that enhance the well-being of that area.  There doesn’t seem to be a definition of what is classed as social value; as different communities and areas have different contexts and needs.  For example, levels of high unemployment, skills shortage or health inequalities will vary in different locations. 

The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 came into force on 31st January 2013 and requires public bodies to consider how they will procure the services they seek and factor in a social value element at the pre-procurement phase thus embedding social value requirements from the outset. 

All English and some Welsh bodies are required to comply with the Act. This includes local authorities, government departments, NHS Trusts, CCGs, fire and rescue services, and housing associations.

Although the Act does not require social value to be considered in contracts below the EU threshold, this doesn’t mean it cannot be applied to lower value contracts! In fact, many public bodies have found it more straightforward to apply the Act to all contracts, whilst central government promotes best practice with the inclusion of social value in all contract awards.