The Social Value Act and Public Procurement

Social Value and the Bidding Process

Social value has become a watch phrase of bids in recent years since the enshrinement of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012. As the Social Enterprise UK article (source below) states, the legislation requires ‘public authorities to have regard to economic, social and environmental well-being in connection with public services contracts; and for connected purposes’. From HealthBid’s experience across a surfeit of tenders, justification of organisation’s social value is a factor which authorities must consider. This is regardless of the scale of their operations, and can range from a bidder’s observation of their environmental impact, to their offering of employment opportunities.

What is Social Value?

Chris White, the MP behind the Act, explains social value as:

“We mean ‘value’ not in its narrow [financial] sense but in its true sense – recognising the importance of social, environmental and economic well-being across our communities and in our lives”.

Social value has come to mean a type of added value to the community, or that provides public benefit. It  form can vary from contract to contract.

Social Value’s Impact

According to an article published in May 2017, only 13% of commissioners are making use of the Social Value Act 2012, despite it becoming a legal requirement half a decade ago. Further to this, research has found that the weighting of answers for social value, across all CCGs is low. A simple askance scored ‘pass/fail’ or with a weighting of 2% of the total evaluation was common.

Overall, with budgetary pressures dominating the headlines, it is evident that value for money ultimately directs the choice of Provider. However, supporters of the Act maintain that the legislation in fact has implications for the potential monetary value of procurement, though perhaps indirectly. The repercussions this has are demonstrated below.

Examples of Social Value

We have compiled some examples of social value in action, which may provide you with ideas for your future bids, and ratify the wider importance of social value.

Partnerships – working with other companies is a great way to achieve social value. For example, partnering with the Job Centre Plus to find new employees not only assists your recruitment process, but you’re offering something back to your local community.

Ethical supply chains – Sourcing your catering supplies from a local shop can help businesses, especially SMEs in your area. For instance, many NHS organisations source their food and drink from local businesses, and it does not have to be more expensive.

Reducing environmental impact – Often this is a question in itself if you are bidding for something like Patient Transport Services. However, reducing your company’s contribution to landfill sites, recycling more, using fewer paper towels, and turning off your electricity when not needed, all contribute to a more sustainable service, and ticks the social value boxes.

HealthBid has worked on several bids specifying the importance of social value, and thus our team possesses longstanding knowledge of the complexities of the evolving field of procurement across health and social care. Contact our MD, Tom Sheppard, at for more information.


Image Credit – ‘Tree’, by Zinnia Jones (Flickr)