3SC is moving to implementing a subscription membership offer, the full details of which will be published shortly. Third sector organisations who want to become involved in the delivery of public services, and need help in areas such as bid development and tender writing; social outcome and impact evaluation; development and implementation of performance management systems and frameworks; problem solving; strategic development and operational planning; media support; IT/software consultancy; and the provision of training will be able to enlist 3SC’s support. 3SC has lengthy experience of bringing together small social enterprises to have greater muscle when it comes to bidding for public tenders, and it has decided to widen the benefits for those who decided they wish to become full members of its network. Third sector delivery organisations will also be able to join 3SC’s Preferred Provider List giving them first access to become a delivery partner in all new business opportunities. Further details can be obtained from http://www.3sc.org/
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation published its report into Probation Supply Chains, reviewing the provision of specialist services for people under probation supervision, and also how subcontracting between Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) and organisations that provide these services is working. 3SC is a partner in Purple Futures, which manages five CRCs in Merseyside, Cheshire and Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, Humberside, Lincolnshire and North Yorkshire and Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. In 2015, with the introduction of the government’s Transforming Rehabilitation programme, there was an expectation that the third sector would play a key role in probation services. Whilst all of Purple Futures CRCs have a third sector supply chain managed by 3SC delivering rehabilitative services, almost four years on, this expectation has not been realised nationally. It seems that “the third sector is less involved than ever in probation services, despite its best efforts; yet, many under probation supervision need the sector’s specialist help, to turn their lives around” says the report – which adds that this is “an exasperating situation”. Partly this is due to the ambition of the programme and the speed at which it was introduced, but there has also been a conceptual problem, which is that “there was never any one national body responsible for the stewardship of specialist services across the country.” And although the National Probation Service was expected to purchase services from the CRCs, they have not or not as much as thought likely, partly because “professional probation staff do not see themselves as purchasers, and most do not want to be.” Four years into this new programme the report gives a picture of overall patchy success, with frustrations at a high level but greater success the further one goes down the chain; for example, “we judged that in more than two-thirds of cases, the supply chain worker or mentor had made a positive difference to the rehabilitation of service users.” One of the recommendations of the report is that CRCs “should continue to improve the evidence base that demonstrates the effectiveness of service delivery by Tier 2 and 3 providers, in achieving identifiable outcomes.” Purple Futures, made up of 3SC and other partners, remains committed to the third sector delivering rehabilitative services, recognising the benefits that these services make to reducing offending.
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Brexit or no Brexit, 25 May is the date from which organisations that do not comply with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) may face heavy fines of up to 4% of annual global turnover, or €20 million, the maximum level that can be imposed for the most serious infringements. The regulation applies to all companies processing and holding the personal data of data subjects residing in the European Union, regardless of the company’s location. It’s likely that, even after Brexit, the UK government will implement an equivalent legal mechanism. The regulation applies to both digital and paper-held data. Anyone can issue a subject access request (SAR) which gives companies 30 days to list the data they hold. A detailed SAR will ask for a copy of all personal information; details of how it has been used; a list of the third parties with whom it has been shared; how long it has been stored; and details of any data breach.
The main issue here is consent: to comply with the new regulations, companies must be able to provide clear requests for consent to use their personal data for communications. GDPR should mean that organisations are no longer able legally to send out unsolicited marketing material. Opt-out boxes will no longer be enough; you will need to build into your marketing communications an opt-in process, by which a recipient is required to give their consent to being communicated with. This consent, it’s worth noting, can be withdrawn.
In the UK the GDPR will be ‘policed’ by the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). While the ICO has said there will not be any ‘grace period’, it is unlikely to stamp hard on any organisation that can show it is putting the appropriate measures in place to enable compliance.
According to a report in the Financial Times almost half of England’s 353 local councils had a decline in their financial reserves between March 2015 and March 2017, as a consequence of cuts in central government funding and the rise in social care costs. One of the repercussions of this is an inevitable squeeze on local government’s ability to procure vital services through the agencies of businesses such as 3SC. Of the 152 councils with social care obligations, 70% saw a drop in reserves, with the biggest fall being in Thurrock, Essex, which reported a drop of 65% to £11.8 million. Central government funding for local councils has been cut by 49% since 2010, according to the National Audit Office.
In July 2017 the New Local Government Network (NLGN), an independent think-tank, published a study that proposed new methods for councils to raise cash, in which it argued that “it is essential that civil society is led by shared conceptions of need, determined through collaboration, and led by civil society itself. Critical to achieving this is a new relationship between independent funders and local government.” It suggested that sometimes funding is a struggle for deceptively simple obstacles, such as lacking a shared sense of “what good looks like”, and called for greater collaboration between councils and independent funders (such as foundations and charitable trusts), led by civil society, with an approach that puts outcomes first.
A decade of government cuts has seen local councils forced to attend to the most urgent needs, often at the cost of supposed ‘extras’, such as libraries, parks, or civic amenities such as gymnasiums – yet the ‘extras’ are what make the local community enjoyable to live within, and help foster wellbeing. A new collaborative approach to delivering services to help compensate for the ongoing financial insecurity of councils has to be found, and 3SC is committed to helping finding such innovative solutions through use of the third sector.
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Depressing news for the millennial generation from the Resolution Foundation, which argued in a report that “dealing with the intergenerational housing challenge requires reform of the private rented sector (PRS) where so many young people live today, and in some cases are likely to reside for the rest of their lives.” According to this, 16% of millennials are set to rent in the PRS sector “from cradle to grave”.
Lack of secure, safe, long-term accommodation mean that young people find it difficult to commit to jobs, geographic areas, and suffer the kind of anxieties associated with a sense of social anomie.
Given this likely scenario many people in England and Wales need greater security of tenure, as they potentially face a lifetime of living in rented accommodation. The insecurities associated with short-term renting could be eliminated, the report suggests, by following the practice of Scotland, Germany, Switzerland and other continental nations, where indeterminate tenancies are commonplace. A significant insecurity is a sudden and dramatic price increase in rent. This could be cured, argues the foundation, by “light-touch rent stabilisation, which allows landlords to negotiate a market rent at the beginning of a tenancy but increase it no faster than CPI for the following three years.”
In its lengthy report the foundation touches on many related housing issues, including the persistent failure to achieve new building targets. It says: “if we want to build consistently at sufficient scale to produce a price effect the state has to build once again.”
The collapse in home ownership – the number of homeowners under the age of 45 in England has dropped from 4.46 million in 2010 to 3.56 million in 2016, according to government figures – means that housing, generally, is fast rising up the political agenda. Thus it was that Labour issued a Green Paper housing plan in April; one of the pledges, should it gain office, was that it would abolish the current definition of affordable housing as properties rented at 80% of market rate. It also said it planned to build 100,000 “genuinely affordable homes” each year, delivered by local councils and housing associations, at an estimated cost of at least £4 billion/year.
Our partner RentSquare do not believe there is a silver bullet solution to the immediate issues faced not only by millennials in the private rented sector, as rent controls have historically made it worst for renters in the long run – less investment, poorer quality and less supply. Low wage growth and investment into social housing mean many more people will rent for the rest of their lives, so the problem is much wider. Almost a quarter of renters are working families receiving benefits. To complicate things further, there are many more self-employed, whether on zero hours contracts or choosing to do their own thing. Renters’ biggest expenditure – rents – is not counted as part of their credit rating, which is bad news for every renter but especially for those who are not permanently employed or are at the lower end of the market, as it means either paying more or going towards worst quality accommodation.
We know the price of rents is not the only problem facing renters. Not only are rents expensive, but even getting to be considered for a property is a costly and very frustrating experience. It is a constant battle to show you are a ‘good tenant’. That is why 1 in 5 renters fail reference checks.
The impact of this is not only bad for renters – costing them time, money, access to quality housing and peace of mind. It also means landlords lose out on meeting perfectly good renters, which can lead to properties sitting empty for longer, making rents more expensive – because landlords need to cover these costs. So in the end, no one wins.
RentSquare’s solution involves helping renters find and secure the best offer, by helping them stay in control of the process. We do this by helping renters assess their actual affordability and demonstrate their creditworthiness. We support them in finding the best deals according to what they can afford and the kind of terms – length of tenancy, break clauses, whether housing benefit is accepted – they are looking for, before they even commit to a viewing.
Our purpose is to make renting accessible for the many. As such we want to increase everyone’s chance of securing the best offer by offering a customised assessment of renters’ creditworthiness and affordability benchmarking based on their individual circumstances.
We’d like to work with renters across the board to reach those from low income backgrounds, including working families in receipt of housing benefit, where we know we can really make a difference. We are looking for partners, voluntary and third sector organisations and local government authorities who would be interested in developing this with us.
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In April, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published it’s six-monthly review of regarding zero-hours contracts. Despite unemployment now at 4.2%, its lowest level since 1975, the number of people on these contracts remains very high, with just over 900,000 people (2.8% of the workforce) having zero-hours contracts as their main source of employment. The report says that zero-hours contracts represent 6% of all employment contracts. Back in 2011 just 190,000 people reported that their contracts did not guarantee them a minimum number of hours. Some commentators thought the figures showed a plateauing of these kinds of contracts, arguing that the tightness of the labour market was helping to keep the lid on their prevalence. This has been proved incorrect.
Typically, a zero-hours contract, under which there is no guaranteed minimum number of hours, means a person is employed for an average of 25.2 hours a week. The ONS says that the usual profile of someone on zero-hours is that they are young, part-time, female, or in full-time education. Just over a quarter of them would like to have more hours; by comparison 7.3% of people in other employment want more hours. The commonest areas using zero-hours’ contracts are in construction, hospitality and general administration.
The TUC argues that “the main barriers to enforcing rights as a zero-hours contract worker are not usually legal but practical – especially the risk of your hours being ‘zeroed down’ if you complain about the way you are treated.” Frances O’Grady, the TUC’s secretary-general, said: “Zero-hour contracts are a licence to treat people like disposable labour and the government should ban them.”
Zero-hours contracts can trap people in a poverty cycle, where individuals work but are so insecure that they also become benefit-dependent. 3SC is committed to helping those who find themselves in vulnerable positions, amongst our work has been our participation in the Work Programme. Since 2011, 3SC has worked in three regions, with 11 partners, helping more than 5,000 people to move from welfare into employment improving their own lives and their communities in the process.
To contact 3SC to see how we can help, email firstname.lastname@example.org .
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At the House of Commons on 22 May 3SC is launching its Position Paper #1, which is titled The Crisis in Public Sector Contracting – And How to Cure It. The event is intended to signal 3SC’s new approach to its business, the focus of which is the unification of large and small, but particularly small, social enterprises to bid for public sector contracts. The fiscal ‘blitz’ of the post-2008 era has devastated public spending; the consequences of austerity have hit many areas of social need. In the report the Chair of 3SC, John Swinney, calls for “more sensitivity in how services are procured and within that an explicit commitment to ensure that third sector and smaller organisations secure a reasonable share of the public procurement pie.”
Price has come to dominate public sector procurement, despite the 2012 Social Value Act, at the cost of securing quality of outcomes. The report argues that a fairer balance needs to be struck such that public sector money is spent wisely, while ensuring that there is also a prioritisation of social benefits.
For this, there needs to be a change of focus. Public commissioners need to shed their austerity-driven concern that price is everything, and start requiring Commissioners and contractors to set aside a percentage (by value) of contracts for smaller providers, who often are driven by their passion and their mission. The Social Value Act already requires people who commission public services to think about how they “can also secure wider social, economic and environmental benefits”. The report suggests, alongside other ideas, that a Public-Private-Third Sector Enterprise Board (PPTEB) could be established, to oversee public service bidding at national and local levels, responsible for agreeing the terms of a tender and the process by which it is decided, taking into consideration how the sectors can work together and play to their strengths.
Places are limited to attend this event; should you wish to come along you will be very welcome but please contact events@3SC.org by 18 May.
29 June is to be the third annual UK ‘Employability Day’ and ERSA is calling for all organisations involved in employment support to get involved, by hosting events, talking to local MPs, informing the local press and social media, and other publicising activities. ERSA wants to know what your plans are for the day and has provided an online form for completion to help, which is available here. Online support materials are also available from ERA here.
The Charity Commission, the Department for International Development, and various NGOs have pledged themselves to improve safeguards. The statement says in part that the signatories “commit to always putting beneficiaries first, to concrete steps to improve the effectiveness of safeguards, to meet our duties and responsibilities and to lead a system-wide process of improving standards and restoring trust.” It states:
- We will demonstrate accountability to beneficiaries and survivors, including staff and volunteers, prioritising those who have suffered and survived exploitation, abuse and violence, and design systems of accountability and transparency that have beneficiaries at their centre.
- We will demonstrate a step change in shifting organisational culture to tackle power imbalances and gender inequality; policies alone are not enough to prevent abuse. The responsibility lies with Board and management, not survivors to tackle all forms of sexism and discrimination and hold individuals to account.
- We will ensure that safeguards are integrated throughout the employment cycle so that we ensure strong checks are in place at the start of employment and regular training and performance management – reinforced by strong codes of conduct and standards – throughout the career.
- We will ensure full accountability through rigorous reporting and complaints mechanisms, for any misconduct that occurs under the banner of our organisations, including by sub-contractors and partners. We will pursue all reported misconduct to the fullest extent, for our own staff, in our own organisational procedures and refer to regulatory authorities in the UK and overseas. We will work together to share relevant information on staff and volunteers who have committed acts which breach standards of conduct.
- We will ensure that concerns are heard and acted on, through a whistleblowing process which protects anonymity and safety and that will ensure that ways of reporting are actively promoted.
The House of Commons’ Women and Equalities committee published a report arguing that new fathers should get an additional 12 weeks dedicated leave to care for new children in the first year of life. It also said that the current two week’s statutory paternity pay men receive should be paid at 90% of earnings and capped for higher salaries. Currently employers are only obliged to pay £140.98 a week, or 90% of earnings if that is lower. Furthermore, it said that paternity pay should be a right for all employees – the present system holds that fathers must have worked for at least 26 weeks by the end of the 15th week before the child is due, in order to qualify. The report proposes that all jobs should be advertised as flexible. It suggest that workplace rights should be the same for fathers – whether they are agency employees or self-employed – as for those who are employed permanently. The right to shared parental leave was introduced in 2015, giving mothers and fathers the right to share leave after the birth or adoption of a child, but estimates suggest that less than 1% of eligible parents actually take shared parental leave. The underlying factor behind the report is the desire to help close the gender pay gap.
An interview with Joanne Cholerton, CEO
The heart of 3SC’s work is building third sector consortia – like-minded organisations operating together to get and deliver on contracts from the public sector. This is no mere business – it’s a business that has the vision of creating a greater amount of social impact. Since it started life in 2009 3SC has a proven track record in doing this, using its “expertise in creating and managing supply chains of third sector organisations to deliver effective, high quality services that provide results and value for money,” says Joanne Cholerton, its CEO. It’s established an enviable track record, in creating systems that make for greater efficiency in supply chain management.
Joanne has been with 3SC since early 2015. She says that “we’ve become a lot more structured and have put a lot of systems and processes in place to streamline the business. Transformation is never as quick as you want it to be but we have now arrived at the point where the various processes are now working as they should – efficiently and effectively.” When people ask, why use 3SC? Joanne’s response is clear and precise: “We believe that local, passionate, mission-driven organisations are the best for getting results for local communities.” And this emphasis on the local determining better outcomes for local communities certainly works – 3SC has proved that in the various sectors it has so far worked in, such as justice, employment, and disability.
The benefits of working with 3SC are many, argues Joanne. “We provide a gateway to the diverse expertise of the third sector for commissioners and operate a rigorous due diligence process, so that we only work with those organisations who we know can deliver the right outcomes in the right way. Some smaller organisations may need additional support to be a part of our consortia but we offer them that support and more. We have quality assurance systems, to ensure the provision of excellent services, help organisations to solve problems that occur in delivering a contract, and have robust performance management systems making sure that accountability at all levels is at the heart of all we do. Perhaps above all, we make sure that local communities, and those who commission contracts, get the best possible outcomes,” says Joanne.
Since the introduction of the Social Value Act which calls for all public sector commissioners to “have regard to” the economic, social and environmental wellbeing factors in their commissioning, the work of 3SC in winning contracts should have become, in theory, easier. But that isn’t necessarily the case. Measuring social impact can be a bit of a minefield simply because there are many different ways of measuring it. “We can easily quantify what we do in terms of numbers of jobs created, for example, but measuring social impact is not the easiest thing to do and providers and commissioners alike struggle with it,” says Joanne. “Many Commissioners struggle with how to measure and score it in the procurement process and whilst some local authorities have it cracked and do implement good practice, it’s all a bit disconnected. The Social Value Act should be the overarching guide for it all, but in practice actually accounting for social value in procurement exercises is still not where it should be,” she says. Commissioners should be taking a “more value for money and social outcomes approach – not lowest cost – to assessing new contracts but I’m still not convinced this is always the case.”
That “value for money” approach is key to the way 3SC operates in, for example, its Transforming Rehabilitation work. Says Joanne: “A core part of the service is to produce monthly comprehensive management information reports on the performance of every organisation/service in the supply chain against their KPIs. This early identification of performance issues ensures that the Purple Futures Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) are equipped with all of the information that they require to manage their services and budgets to achieve maximum outcomes which in turn helps realise maximum levels of Payment by Results monies.”
There is a paradox in public sector procurement right now. From the demise of Carillion it’s evident that bigger in itself does not mean better. But bigger formations, so long as they are structured with local organisations, delivering local services driven by passion not profit, is what’s needed to create the greatest social impact, argues Joanne. “There could not be a better time to join with us to make the difference to people’s lives that everyone wants,” she says. “As getting better value for money from public contracts, with a heightened focus on better social outcomes comes more into play, 3SC is poised to become increasingly relevant.”
Photo by Angus Northover
The Dynamic Purchasing System (DPS) is a procedure available for contracts for works, services and goods commonly available on the market. The DPS can streamline procurement for both suppliers and authorities; suppliers don’t have to demonstrate suitability and capability every time they wish to compete for a public sector contract, and the award of individual tenders can be quicker than under some other procedures. Once the DPS is set up, an authority may award specific contracts using a DPS that they are entitled to use by inviting all suppliers admitted to the relevant category to bid. The Government is currently giving a series of presentations in different regions, giving an in-depth walkthrough of the accreditation process, the ‘Employability Journey’ and explain how suppliers can get involved. For more information contact: email@example.com.
Finalists for the Employment Related Services Association (ERSA) 2018 awards will be announced at the ERSA annual general meeting on 19 April, and awards will be presented to the winners in June 2018. There are several categories and include: Disability and Health Employment; Youth Employment; Innovation; Partner of the Year; Adviser of the Year; Team of the Year; Large Employer of the Year; Small or Medium Employer of the Year; Significant Achievement; and a Lifetime Achievement.
The DWP has replaced their flexible support fund with a dynamic purchasing system (DPS) and plan to spend £35m in the current financial year. We have a place on the DPS and are currently getting a steady stream of call offs. At the moment these are in Wales, the Midlands and the North West but could expand to cover the whole of the country. This does seem to offer a way to pay for services to support some marginalised communities back into work.
The Home Office is re-commissioning services for asylum seekers in the UK. One of the services being tendered for is AIRE. This service will involve each asylum seeker being provided with a single point of contact that will offer support, and help them navigate the asylum process. The provision will provide support with the process of the application for asylum and will also address other support issues and help resolve accommodation issues, including those associated with resettlement for those who are granted leave to remain. The tender for this service will be launched in the next few months and as soon as the requirement is clear it will seek expressions of interest from relevant organisations.
The MoJ are running a tender for places on the Prison Education Framework (PEF). Most of the activity commissioned will be college courses, delivered in prison and associated with English, Maths and ICT. The MoJ will also be commissioning work which will focus on employability and mentoring, and 3SC are talking to many of the potential primes about developing such services for them. At the moment it is not clear how much mentoring and employability activity will be commissioned through the PEF as that will be decided locally by prison governors in response to local need in the autumn. The MoJ are also going to develop a dynamic purchasing system (DPS) to sit alongside the framework, and prison governors will additionally use this to commission pieces of work to support the delivery of accredited courses commissioned through the PEF. Delivery will begin in the spring of 2019 and detailed discussions are expected to begin this autumn.
The charity Skills For Care, which sets the standards and qualifications for health and social care workers, says there were 91,630 adult social care apprenticeship starts in 2016-17 and that “there were more starts in adult social care than in any other apprenticeship.” In April 2017 the apprenticeship levy was launched: employers with a payroll or more than £3 million are required to pay a monthly tax of 0.5% of the payroll amount over the £3 million threshold. The payments are made into a Digital Apprenticeship Service account controlled by the employer and supplemented by a 10% contribution from the Government. Providers of apprenticeships to the employer are paid through this account and unused funds in the account expire after two years. Skills For Care estimates the levy is payable by some 750 employers across England. According to the Office for Budget Responsibility the apprenticeship levy will accumulate £10.7 billion by early 2021, which represents a downgrade of £900 million, or 8%, from its original forecast which was made when the levy was announced in 2015. Expenditure on apprenticeships in the 2016-17 financial year was just over £1.6 billion, according to Government accounts, split equally between 16 to 18 year-olds and adults.
In its response to the UK Chancellor’s Spring Statement, the Trades Union Congress published a report which dealt with the economic problems facing the UK, highlighting weak growth, falling real wages, lack of investment in infrastructure, and falling investment in public services. It argues that “UK spending [is] significantly less per capita on public services than comparable EU countries like France and Germany” and says that while the UK spent £5,620 per person on public services in 2016, France spent £7,090, Germany £6,760 and Sweden £9,050. It says: “There is a strong case for directing funds to public investment through a National Infrastructure Bank. The aim should be to go beyond finance, to operating as a centre of expertise in these vital initiatives, in support of a wider industrial strategy and getting the economy fit for future challenges. This will also require investment in workers to ensure that gains from new technology are fairly shared, and high-quality training is provided to help workers take advantage of new opportunities.”
The Chancellor’s Spring Statement this week made no reference to the future of at least £258.4 million from which UK charities benefitted in 2015, the latest year for which full data is available. That year, around 295 UK charities gained £210.9 million from direct management, fees that are administered directly by the European Commission; 113 UK charities in addition received some £47.5 million from three main European Structural and Investment Funds, the allocation of which is the responsibility of national governments. Trustees of charities affected cannot be sure whether these substantial funds will be made available after 29 March 2019. The Government has promised to use EU funds that come back to the UK after Brexit to create a ‘Shared Prosperity Fund’. There is no information on the priorities of such a fund, which causes it would support, and how it would function. In a paper published last November the Directory of Social Change put the minimum funding gap (the sum that would need to be replaced after Brexit in order to maintain current programmes) at £243.1 million. Government grants and contracts comprised 34% of the UK’s voluntary sector income in 2014-15, a total of £15.3 billion, £400 million less than its 2009-10 peak, according to the same paper.
Sarah Newton (pictured above), the Minister for Disabled People, Health and Work, has called for businesses to make reasonable workplace adjustments for their disabled employees and to make the most of the support available. The government’s Disability Confident scheme aims to give employers the tools they need, to recruit and retain disabled and people with health conditions, to become employees. She said: “Disabled people can bring a wealth of different perspectives and skills to an organisation, and I want to encourage more businesses to make sure they’re not missing out on this huge untapped pool of talent. Workplace adjustments are often very easy to implement and usually inexpensive or even free, yet the benefits of supporting disabled people to fulfil their potential at work can be long-lasting for both the employee and your business.” According to the charity Scope, 20% of people in the UK have an impairment, with 15% of people of working age being disabled. Under the Equality Act 2010 you are disabled if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities. In March, London boroughs launched the ‘Work and Health Programme’, with grant funding worth up to £135 million by the Department of Work and Pensions. The programme is aimed at supporting disabled people, people with long term health conditions, and people who have been out of work for more than two years. In London there are currently 570,000 people who want to work but are unemployed, while the disability employment gap has stuck at roughly the same level for the past 10 years, at 26.3%.
Photo by Chris McAndrew, Parliamentary Digital Service, Creative Commons