Social value: What it is and how can it help your care business?

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For any care provider bidding for contracts from local authorities or other public sector organisations, social value is, or at least should be, an important consideration.

It is a requirement in every care tender we see now, and the weighting allocated to social value is increasing all the time. This means that valuable care contracts can be won or lost on the strength of a company’s social value strategy.

Let’s understand what social value is and how you can build it into your business operations.

The Public Services (Social Value) Act came into force on 31st January 2013. This act imposed a statutory responsibility on bodies commissioning public services to ensure taxpayers’ money is used to maximum impact for the local area. The essential idea is that money spent on core services, such as roads maintenance, transport services or care provision, can bring additional benefit if provider companies adopt the right strategies and practices.

For example, if a home care provider employs a local workforce, the money from their local authority contract that they pay out in wages stays largely in the local economy. Some of those wages are spent in local shops and other local businesses, and some of that money will then be re-spent into other businesses locally.

Analyses of Social Return on Investment studies repeatedly show that £1 of taxpayers’ money, spent with due regard for social value, can be worth £2-£4 to the local economy through this recycling effect.

Social value is broader than economics though; it is also about value delivered to local communities and to the local environment.

The possibility of deriving more value from their contract spend has driven public bodies like local authorities to concentrate on ensuring their supply chain is delivering as much social value as possible. This is why we now typically see 10-15% of the marks awarded for care service tenders being awarded to the bidder’s social value strategy.

In a commissioning landscape where contracts are often won or lost on 1 or 2%, it’s easy to appreciate the importance of developing strong social value within your company.

What do I have to do to deliver social value?

So, what does social value look like in practice? As we said above, there are three key components to your social value offer. Let’s look at each of these in turn:

  1. Economic

We’ve already said that employing a local workforce can provide social value because more of the contract spend stays in your local area, helping to support your local economy. Buying goods and services locally adds to that effect.

A care provider will need to purchase office supplies, IT equipment and support services, maintenance and cleaning services, uniforms, possibly vehicles, and many other goods and services. The more you can buy from local suppliers, i.e. within your local authority catchment area(s), the more you are delivering social value.

Playing a role in strengthening human capital also helps to support growth in the local economy, so delivering training and promoting continuous professional development to your (locally-employed) staff also adds to your social value offer.

Other aspects of economic social value include paying staff a living wage, creating new jobs, supporting young people to develop employability skills, supporting people out of the workforce to apply for your vacancies, and offering apprenticeships.

  1. Social

This is about what you can do for your local community in non-monetary terms. This might include basic ‘good business’ practices like being a considerate employer, respecting the work-life balance of your employees, being open and collaborative with other providers in the area, and representing your local community in a positive manner.

It can also include actively reaching out to support your community, for example by working with schools and colleges to offer work placements, facilitating a befriending scheme to reduce social isolation amongst local residents, or offering a room in your care home or offices free of charge for a local charity to use for meetings.

Generally, developing this aspect of social value means being a socially responsible business. Ask yourself if your community is better off for your presence.

  1. Environmental

This aspect includes your use of energy and natural resources, so you can strengthen your social value by reducing electricity, gas and water use.

Ways of doing this include reminding staff to switch off lights, using LED light bulbs and lower-energy appliances and electronic equipment, switching off computer monitors when not in use, reducing the flush volume of your toilets by adding a filled 1-litre plastic bottle to the cistern.

It also includes operating in a sustainable manner by reducing waste production, using recycled goods and ethically-sourced products where possible. You could also consider reducing business travel and promoting car sharing or cycle-to-work schemes.

Keeping it up

It is important to regularly audit your social value profile so that changes you make are recorded and followed up, and measured for efficacy and inherent value.

When writing a strong social value response in a tender, remember that the commissioners will want to see quantifiable evidence of your social value profile, not just vague promises or general ideas. So, when you’re planning your social value initiatives, be rigorous. Work out the numeric values you can commit to, for example, x number of work placements, x% reduction in business miles, or x number of staff engaged in your car sharing scheme. Then evaluate yourself against those targets and retain the data to show off within your next tender.

These are just some of the ways you can boost your social value offer. The good news is increasing social value isn’t costly; it’s about getting more value out of your existing spend, not spending more.

If you need a social value policy to support a bid application or need support in writing the bid, get in touch with Insequa Ltd on 0115 896 3999.