Buying  benefits for communities

By Tom Lloyd Goodwin | 07 December 2021

The everyday activities of local anchor institutions present numerous opportunities to advance social value. Whether it’s a local authority commissioning a new homecare service or the use of targeted pre-employment training programmes by the NHS, these practices can be used to generate wider social, economic and environmental outcomes for people, place and planet.

Social value and public expenditure

Social value has traditionally been associated with procurement activity and the use of social value frameworks. Over the last 18 months, however, the Government has published a raft of procurement policy notices, which encourage the adoption of more progressive practice to support local economies and enable more SMEs and social businesses to enter public sector supply chains. This guidance was reaffirmed and strengthened within last year’s procurement green paper and, following public consultation, the publication of the Government’s new Procurement Bill is now imminent.

This direction of travel is positive as it supports a wider consideration of social value that goes way beyond procurement and is much more about market shaping and intervention to encourage more socially productive forms of business to flourish. Yet, as CLES argued earlier this year, legislation as it stands is insufficient – we still need the progressive intent of local policymakers.

Market shaping within homecare

A good example of this can be found in Newham, where the council are acting as strong market shapers, controlling the type of organisation that has access to their homecare market.

Newham have moved to a patch-based service that is broken down into eight community neighbourhood areas. They have then lotted their contracts and specified that providers can deliver only one lot each.

Furthermore, the council has stipulated that providers must have a good knowledge of the community’s geography, facilities and services and must operate from an office in Newham. They are required to actively recruit care workers who reflect the borough’s diverse population, specifically in relation to gender, culture/ethnicity and language. They are also required to pay their workforce the London Living Wage and to adhere to the principles of the UNISON ethical care charter.

In practice, this creates a strong disincentive for larger, more extractive providers to enter the market. As a result, Newham now have locally-based small SMEs delivering their home care who are required to operate with a concern for the wider community and workers, alongside the pursuit of profit.

Progressive pre-employment practice

Beyond public expenditure, there are many ways in which local anchors can look to deliver social value. In this, the wider gamut of community wealth building activity can also be a key driver.

As CLES reported recently, some NHS trusts and health boards, are now taking purposeful action to lever employment opportunities towards individuals who are currently furthest from the jobs market. In Greater Manchester, for example, the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust has bypassed the advert and interview process for many of their entry level positions and they are now reserving these positions for the recipients of targeted pre-employment training programmes.

Having mapped their employment profile, they have identified deprived postcodes where they are not employing people and have designed specific pre-employment training packages to help these local residents to enter their workplace. These programmes have been developed in conjunction with the local community and they are calibrated to help target groups get ready for work.

Through the adoption of these programmes, the Northern Care Alliance are starting to change the narrative around their workforce by using their power as employers to tackle the social determinants of health and create a more just society. It’s not about just wanting ‘the best person for the job’, but using the job to do the best by the people who make up your local economy.

Within our current confluence of crises, and in the absence of a more progressive national policy framework, we need our local anchor institutions to do everything in their power to maximise social, economic and environmental benefits for our local economies. As we continue to see the dysfunctions in our economy exposed by COVID-19 and the environmental crisis, as well as continued poverty, deprivation and inequality, this progressive practice must be harnessed for maximum social value.

Tom Lloyd Goodwin is associate director of CLES (the national organisation for local economies)

@CLESthinkdo

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