Hazel hailed the role of social enterprises in helping to transform people’s lives at a major Social Finance Fair in Salford.
The event, held at Salford University’s MediaCity campus was organised by Big Society Capital and Social Enterprise North West.
Hazel, who has championed the role of social enterprise and socially-responsible business, was the keynote speaker.
Social Finance involves companies, not-for-profit organisations, funds or individuals providing affordable loans to organisations motivated by doing public good rather than profit like social enterprises, charities and community organisations.
Representatives of social enterprises from Greater Manchester and beyond addressed the audience and gave examples of successful social investment.
They had the chance to meet social finance providers, including some of the 20 organisations which have teamed up with Big Society Capital to offer more than £100m in social finance.
“Social enterprises have the potential to really help improve people’s lives while saving our country a huge amount of money and we have same great examples of their fantastic work here in Salford.
They can help to tackle the root causes of problems like crime, poor health and unemployment, meaning savings for our police forces, hospitals and the benefits bill. It can be difficult for them to find the money to get started, but I hope this event showed that we have help out there now to help social enterprises of all kinds to flourish.”
Other speakers at the event included Scott Darraugh of Salford-based Social AdVentures, which aims to improve people’s health and well-being through community events, volunteering and activities and courses in areas like education, physical activity and the arts.
Social AdVentures has secured more than £200,000 from the Social Enterprise Investment Fund, of which part was a grant and part was a loan and is currently in talks with a number of social investors.
The event also included workshops on how to access social investment in different sectors, like health and social care.
One was focused on how social enterprises and responsible businesses could demonstrate added ‘social value’ in providing services.
The new Public Services (Social Value) Act, supported by Hazel, means public sector commissioners must consider social, environmental and economic benefits when awarding contracts to provide service – rather than simply choosing the cheapest option.
For instance, Social adVentures, which has a contract with the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has found that for every £1 it invests, another £10 is saved.
Twenty per cent of the people taking part in a Job Club had found work within three months, reducing benefit payments, while 33 per cent of those participating in the Mindfulness course reported improvements to their mental health – potentially reducing demand on the NHS.
Nick O’Donohoe, chief executive of Big Society Capital, who also spoke at the event, said:
“Social innovation is clearly thriving in the North West, and it was great to spend the day meeting inspiring social entrepreneurs who are tackling problems from youth unemployment to isolation and loneliness of older people. We hope that by enabling local charities and social enterprises to meet with social finance providers and discuss what they need, we have helped move a step forward in ensuring that those organisations can access the finance they need to do even more.”
Making Social Value invaluable (February 25, 2014)
Hazel has called for a taskforce to be set up to help cash-strapped councils, hospitals and other publicly funded organisations do more to improve people’s lives when they award contracts.
Leading lights from the worlds of business, social enterprise and the public sector backed the idea at a Parliamentary roundtable on Social Value she organised jointly with environmental solutions provider Veolia Environnement.
Hazel was joined at the event by Minister for Civil Society, Nick Hurd, Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Chuka Umunna, Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Chi Onwurah and Kevin Hurst, of Veolia.
The event was aimed at boosting the benefits being delivered to local communities on the back of the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012.
The Act requires the likes of councils, schools and the NHS to consider the economic, social and environmental benefits to residents when choosing service providers – rather than simply picking the organisation willing to do the job for the least amount of money.
But there is a lack of guidance for either commissioners or the social enterprises and companies competing for contracts on how best to create ‘Social Value’ by boosting local communities – and then on how to measure these benefits.
Hazel, a leading supporter of the Act, said that spending a little extra to improve life for residents often meant people would have less reason to call upon the public purse in the long-run, ensuring significant savings.
“If we can encourage commissioners to think beyond their immediate bottom-line this will stimulate innovation among would-be service providers. Many social enterprises, and some businesses, are already thinking outside the box and delivering services in a way which really benefits local people, but we want going that extra mile to become the norm. At a time of real pressure on budgets, councils and other public sector organisations need to be confident that this will save money in the long-run. That is why it is important that we get in place a framework so they can easily see what works and what does not when it comes to deciding who should deliver a particular service. This will also give organisations which deliver services a better idea of what they need to do to win these contracts and help the people who matter most, the public. As buzz words go, it might not be the sexiest, but the idea of Social Value is gaining real momentum – and when put into practice properly it is a truly dynamic concept that can benefit everyone.”
Kevin Hurst, Marketing and Communication Director for Veolia Environnement, said:
“When a company like Veolia tenders for work with a local authority the value they provide goes further than just the services they are tendering for. To truly understand the support a big business can offer to a local authority we’ve worked closely with our partner Southwark Council to assess the full impact we have from our services. Our methodology hasn’t just opened our eyes to the value we offer it has also shown that we can help support all the local authorities’ goals from lowering crime rates to supporting local social enterprise.”
Also addressing the audience were Peter Holbrooke of Social Enterprise UK, Coun Lib Peck, leader of Lambeth Council and Juliet Silvester of Fujitsu.
There was agreement that a consistent framework for measuring social value needed to be developed, including a range of indicators by which social impact can be measured: e.g. number of people helped into work, reductions in re-offending, etc.
Delegates agreed to call upon the Government to create a Cross Party Social Value Taskforce to develop the methodology.
The taskforce would also be encouraged to share best practice case studies and develop detailed guidance for commissioners and service providers which would also be included in an online portal.
It will be asked to look at how the act can be extended to cover goods, development and disposal of assets, as well as services – meaning it could in future apply to infrastructure and building projects.
A report considered by delegates said that measuring social value should be an on-going process rather than a one-off exercise and should not become a ‘tick box’ exercise.
The Public Services (Social Value) Act is already encouraging public sector organisations to secure maximum benefit for local communities when they award contracts.
For instance, Wakefield Council secured extra social value by employing local social enterprise Fresh Pastures when it wanted a new milk supplier for schools.
As well as delivering the milk, staff provided lessons on healthy living for pupils and employed the long-term unemployed and disabled people.
Scheme helped long-term unemployed (January 7, 2014)
Staff at Tesco Pendleton who were unemployed until a year ago told Hazel how they had benefited from a scheme to help people back into work.
Ahead of the supermarket opening in Novembe
2011, Hazel encouraged managers to do everything they could to support local people who had been out of work for some time.
More than 50 jobseekers who were long-term unemployed took part in a Regeneration Partnership programme and were given extensive training and a job.
And 97 per cent of them remain at the store more than one year on.
Some of them spoke to Hazel about their experiences after she was invited to the store to mark its first birthday.
Many have now experienced different roles and learned new skills on everything from the fishmonger stall to the bakery.
“It was inspiring to hear from staff about their journey from long-term unemployment to becoming dedicated and highly valued members of the Tesco team. They have learned new skills along the way and the 97% staff retention rate is testament to the support and encouragement they have received. I have been campaigning for some time for local firms and social enterprises to put something back into the community. Helping unemployed people back into work while teaching them new skills is a fantastic way of doing just that and I would love to see more major employers following Tesco’s example.”