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Delivering social value is key to improving services, shows new report from Orbit

More than two-thirds of local authorities and housing associations say delivering social value has led to better service delivery and community relations according to a new report released today by Orbit Group, Social Enterprise UK, Wates Living Space, PwC and The Chartered Institute of Housing.

Communities Count: the Four Steps to Unlocking Social Value [1] is the largest and most comprehensive survey since the introduction of the Social Value Act, examining the views of commissioners, their progress in delivering social value, and the role of social enterprise.

It reveals wide-ranging benefits for local authorities and housing associations seeking to create social value in communities across the UK:

  • 71% say delivering social value has led to better service delivery. 
  • 52% say it has resulted in cost savings. 
  • 82% report that it has led to an improved image of their organisation.
  • 78% say it has led to better community relations.
  • Additional benefits for communities include improved wellbeing and quality of life for tenants and residents; keeping spend in local economies; reductions in crime.
  • Additional benefits for housing associations and local authorities include increased staff motivation and supporting innovation by changing mind-sets about how services can be delivered.
  • The majority (80%) of local authorities and housing associations say that employment is the number one local social value priority, followed by youth employment (54%) and training / volunteering (51%). 
  • More than a third (39%) say the Public Services (Social Value) Act has had a high impact.
  • 56% report a low impact, largely because they were doing it already.

Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK, said:

“The findings in this report are very good news and clearly demonstrate that integrating social value can bring a wide range of benefits to local authorities and housing associations and the communities in which they operate. It shows social value can be viewed as a strategy for innovation and cost savings, not just as the creation of positive social outcomes or, at worse, compliance to the Act.”

The report, supported by Orbit Group, Wates Living Space, PwC and The Chartered Institute of Housing finds that while the Public Services (Social Value) Act has created a step-change in how some housing associations and local authorities consider social value, barriers to creating social value remain defining what social value is, and how it can be measured.

  • More than a third (37%) of respondents report difficulty in defining social value. This is a bigger issue for local authorities than housing associations (43% vs 33%). 
  • More than half report measurement as the main barrier to implementation: 53% during the commissioning process and 55% post-commissioning. 
  • Two-thirds (66%) say they would like further guidance on social value measurement.
  • Despite two thirds (60%) of respondents having a nominated lead for social value, only 37% currently have a defined social value policy.

Peter Holbrook, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise UK, continued:

“There’s no doubt that those organisations with a dedicated social value lead face fewer challenges in defining, delivering and measuring social value than those without, because it directly supports leadership buy-in.

“The report provides a simple four steps to unlocking social value: defining the vision for the organisation and community; integrating it across the business; delivering it in cross sector, long term partnerships; and measuring the difference created.

“This report helps to build a real picture of the social value landscape, the challenges faced by commissioning agencies on the ground, and the vital role of social enterprise.”

Social enterprises are identified as key partners working with housing associations and local authorities to deliver social value: 41% have been involved in social enterprise development schemes, a third (33%) have helped to set up one social enterprise, and almost as many (27%) have helped set up five or more. Overall satisfaction among respondents with social enterprises as a means of delivering social value is high at 90%.


Report recommendations for local authorities and housing associations:

  1. Adopt a written policy and a nominated lead for social value.
  2. View social value as a route to innovation and cost savings, not just as the creation of positive social outcomes or, worse, compliance to the Act.
  3. Integrate and consider social value across all services, regardless of size.
  4. Work with, buy from, start-up and support social enterprises to help deliver social value.
  5. Measure the social value being created - against a clear sense of what is trying to be achieved, proportionately, and throughout the length of contracts.


The report is available to download here.

For interview requests and case studies, contact the Social Enterprise UK press office on 020 3589 4949/51 or sam.simmons@socialenterprise.org.uk / fran.gorman@socialenterprise.org.uk

[1] Research based on 200 telephone interviews with senior leaders in 77 local authorities and 123 housing associations, covering a wide diversity of scale, geography and experience.

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