At Employers For Childcare Charitable Group, we don’t just recognise the value of trading for a social purpose: it underpins absolutely everything we do. We are proud to have established two social enterprises in Northern Ireland: Employers For Childcare Vouchers and Childcare Solutions. One hundred per cent of the profits made through these businesses are invested into our charitable activities, which include the Family Benefits Advice Service – providing free, impartial and confidential information and advice to parents. Since 2008, we have generated and invested £3 million into these charitable activities for the benefit of families across Northern Ireland.
Whilst we welcomed the Programme for Government commitment to include ‘social clauses’ in public procurement in Northern Ireland back in 2011, we have found little evidence that this has actually filtered down to delivering social impact on the ground. At the launch of the Strategic Investment Board’s ‘Buy Social NI’ Toolkit in February, the Junior Ministers noted that, given the current economic conditions, it is now more important than ever that the maximum possible benefit is received from all public investment. We agree, which is why we feel that further action is now needed to bring this commitment to life.
We are calling, therefore, for a reinvigorated debate on the introduction of a Social Value Act, similar to that which already exists in England and Wales, which would enshrine into law the importance of delivering social value in such public procurement exercises. This would provide social enterprises with an opportunity to demonstrate the social value they could add to any direct service delivery in a public procurement process, and enable government departments to demonstrate much greater value for money through their social impacts.