The Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 became law on the 8th March 2012 and went live from 31st January 2013. The public sector must now consider social value as part of any procurement. Not just value for money (cost and quality). So now you may have to respond to social value tender questions when bidding for public sector contracts.
What is Social Value in Tendering?
The Act requires authorities to make the following considerations at the pre-procurement stage:
- How what is proposed to be procured might improve the economic, social and environmental well-being of the “relevant area”
- How in conducting a procurement process it might act with a view to securing that improvement
We are now seeing much more focus on social value questions in tenders. Some have method statement questions on what social value you will provide. Others have social value calculator Excel spreadsheets to complete (see below).
Some public sector tenders completely ignored social value when tendering! But the Government’s latest measures reinforce the need to include social value in tender evaluation. As opposed to “consider”, authorities must “explicitly evaluate” social value (if reasonable and proportionate for that procurement). See Procurement Policy Note 06/20.
In December 2020, the Government introduced The Social Value Model. This sets out more guidance on how to answer social value questions.
Some tenders weight social value as high as 10-20% of the total possible score! So, there can be a lot at stake.
Social Value Tender Questions
Social value tender questions can appear daunting at first. But once you start to understand social value, they become a lot easier. These types of tender questions can also help local businesses to score higher than non-local competitors. The reason is that they are already contributing to their local “relevant area”. For example:
Economic – employment, training and work-experience opportunities for local people.
Environmental – local staff, local suppliers and local work reduces your carbon footprint.
Social – supporting local community initiatives e.g. charities, local amateur sports teams etc.
Many of the terms used by councils and government can be confusing: “social integration and community cohesion” and “community development and engagement“. But in fact most of it is common sense. Here are some typical areas for social value and how you might respond:
- Local jobs created and sustained
- Work placement schemes for schools and colleges
- Local school and college visits e.g. careers talks and mentoring, safety talks, curriculum or literacy support
- Training opportunities e.g. your own staff, work-experience and customer staff
- Taking people out of unemployment
- Reducing the disability employment gap
- Employing veterans
- Tackling workforce inequality
- Providing career advice and/or mentoring
- Using local suppliers, voluntary groups and agencies
- Promoting social value in your supply chain e.g. using suppliers who operate apprenticeship schemes, have ISO14001, tackle modern slavery etc.
- Supporting COVID-19 economic recovery
- Reducing carbon footprint/pollution and improving air quality e.g. electric cars, reducing mileage, energy-efficient equipment
- Decreasing congestion e.g. car-sharing and cycle to work schemes
- Minimising waste e.g. re-use and recycling
- Using environmentally friendly goods
- Saving energy and resources e.g. energy efficient lighting and equipment, saving water etc.
- Sustainability e.g. FSC timber products
- Operating an ISO14001 environmental management system or similar
- Helping improve public spaces e.g. parks
- Supporting local charities
- Helping local community groups (e.g. amateur sports clubs or social groups) – financial or any other support
- Ethical suppliers e.g. Fair Trade
- Community engagement e.g. involving local residents
- Promoting social integration e.g. work opportunities for disadvantaged people
- Supporting local culture and heritage
- Hosting community events
- Supporting a healthier community e.g. promoting staff well-being, flexible working policies for staff
- Helping vulnerable people to live independently
- Supporting local crime reduction
- Helping to reduce homelessness
- Helping communities recover post COVID-19
These are only some examples of social value. You can expand this list to hundreds more similar activities.
Involving your supply chain in providing social value can also help you gain more points when answering tender questions.
National Procurement Policy Statement
In June 2021, the National Procurement Policy Statement was published by the Government, PPN 05/21. It states:
Contracting authorities should consider the following social value outcomes alongside any additional local priorities:
- Creating new businesses, new jobs and new skills in the UK
- Improving supplier diversity, innovation and resilience
- Tackling climate change and reducing waste.
These reflect the UK Government’s legally-binding target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 and the need for post CV-19 recovery. Whilst this is separate to social value, the three themes are covered by social value. So, we will see these in social value tender questions.
The procurement law team at Mills & Reeve have a good post explaining the changes.
TOMs, Social Value Calculators and Measuring Social Value
Many Councils and public sector bodies have started to use a more formal way to assess bidders’ social value impact. These are called “TOMs” which stands for Themes, Outcomes and Measures.
Typically, the tender will include the authority’s published social value aims and you will be asked to state exactly how you will support these locally. In addition to general activities, you will need to commit to firm numbers. For example, how many man-hours of attending local schools or colleges to deliver career talks or advice.
Tender submission documents can include a table or social value calculator (spreadsheet) which has a detailed list of social value activities. Against each category, there will be a financial value. You then add the amount of commitment to any activity that you can support. This calculates your bid’s social value in monetary terms. For example: 3 weeks of work placement for a local student at £100 per week = £300.
You can also download a copy of Social Value Portal’s National TOMs to see another social value calculator.
Preparing for Social Value
Use the above lists and/or TOMs to measure what social value you currently offer. Then use those to assess what more you can do for the authority’s tender you are bidding on.
Research your prospect and understand what social value elements are most important to them e.g. environment is big for Bristol Green Capital.
Download their social value policy. Look at any social value news or procurement social value requirements on their website.
Attend any supplier engagement events. These will help you understand if the Authority has any social value preferences e.g. employment, apprenticeships etc.
If you do not have a live tender but plan to to bid for a contract in the future, start thinking about what social value you can provide. And how. There is no guarantee what your next tender will ask for (there is so much variance between ITTs). But you will have done some of the work without the pressure of a deadline.
For example, you may consider implementing a Carbon Reduction Plan (CRP). See the Cabinet Office’s PPN 06/21 Taking Account of Carbon Reduction Plans in the procurement of major government contracts. It has a template for CRP. Or you may look at gaining ISO14001 for your environmental management system.
Answering Social Value Tender Questions
Initially, social value questions asked about what social value initiatives you have undertaken. The Social Value Model changed this. Nowadays, buyers are looking to understand what specific social value you will provide for their contract and when. They also want to know how you will measure and report on whet you are doing. The TOMs Social Value Calculators above are a good example of this.
When answering social value tender questions make specific commitments on:
- What you will do
Explain each different activity you are offering and its impact.
- How much you will do
What quantities / values are you offering?
- Over what time period
When will the activities be delivered / achieved? Per annum? Over the contract duration?
- How you will measure achievement
How you will prove that you have met your targets?
- How you will report this
What format, period etc. are you suggesting?
For example: number of staff hours spent on school and college visits (e.g. delivering careers talks, curriculum support etc.) per annum, in the locality relating to their contract.
As explained in this guide on answering tender questions, you must respond specifically to their questions. Not just give them your preferred social value activities. We’ve seen plenty of social value questions that don’t ask about all 3 aspects of social value e.g. just asking about apprenticeships and employment. Also, do your research on what is important to the buying authority. For example, Bristol has very clear and challenging environmental ambitions so providing an electric car for for your staff to travel around the City may hold more value to the Council than other social value provisions.
If you need help with answering tender social value questions, contact us.
You have to look outside some of the confusing terms. Most businesses are already doing many of these activities and therefore contributing to social value.
Consider what you can do specifically in the buying authority’s local area. Understand what is important to them. Then be clear on what, when and how much you will do if you win the contract. Then explain how you will monitor and report on your activities.
Does anybody have any other ideas or thoughts on answering social value tender questions?