MPs are winding down as Parliament goes into recess. It seems a good time for us to take stock. Most of us expected that we would see Theresa May re-enter Downing Street after the General Election, but few predicted the result would be so close. My hunch is that the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 will be the Conservative Party’s friend and that there will be no need for another General Election much before 2022, but one never knows. For now, we have a Conservative Government and a newly confident Labour Opposition. What does this all mean for social enterprise?
Social Enterprise and the Industrial Strategy
Much rides on the Industrial Strategy and the extent to which the Office for Civil Society (where social enterprise policy sits within government) which is in the (newly renamed) Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport can exercise influence in the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy which has responsibility for drawing up the final Industrial Strategy.
There are reasons to be optimistic. Social enterprise did get a name check in the consultation, a positive but small sign. Government has also recently hinted that we will see social enterprise solutions in the Industrial Strategy in a recent debate in the Lords: “We have heard about the importance of universities and social enterprises, employee-owned businesses and housing associations. All these have an important role to play; they are very much part of the Government’s vision and will be included in the industrial strategy.”
A very welcome answer, if true. We’ll see – there are many ways that such a promise can be delivered, some of which could be great and others which might disappoint.
Social Value Act
What is clear is that Penny Mordaunt MP (DWP) understands that one of the levers at her disposal to help get disabled people into work is the Social Value Act (SVA) and procurement spend – she gave social enterprise and the SVA lots of love in a speech to launch a think tank report on the subject and the SVA gets a mention in the policy briefing which went alongside the Queen’s Speech: “We are promoting the use of social enterprises which support disabled people, both through increasing the use of the Social Value Act 2012 in central government procurement, and through the development of the wider Industrial Strategy.”
It does feel that the SVA has gained critical mass and we are seeing it crop up repeatedly and not just from the usual suspects: in the GLA’s (very good) draft ethical procurement policy as well as in procurement companies reports and consultation responses. It’s not just us banging on about it, and that can only be a good thing.
Will we get the review we were promised earlier this year? Our new minister Tracey Crouch is aware how important we think it is. The official line, according to answers to PQs from Labour’s Steve Reed MP and Jon Trickett MP is we will get an announcement in due course.
Somewhat connected to this, Jon Trickett MP appears to be on a mission to find out how many charities and social enterprises have received contracts from Government. There is much that Crown Commercial Services, which now have a policy lead for social value, must do to catch up with the best local authorities.
What we can authoritatively say is that whatever happens nationally, there are a set of newly elected Mayors with considerable (if varying) powers and challenges. We’re confident that social enterprise can provide answers to some of those challenges and look forward to working closely with the Mayors.
It looks like all STPs will become ACSs, and in time some will become ACOs. Forget all the TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms), what the NHS (National Health Service) reorganisation means is that planning is back.
What we’re seeing is a re-regionalisation of the NHS and what appears to be a move away from the competitive aspects of the Health and Social Care Act 2012. ACSs (Accountable Care Systems) are a sort of half-way house between what we have now with CCGs (Clinical Commissioning Groups) having power, and the strategic (i.e. not necessary market-tested) commissioning that ACOs (Accountable Care Organisations) might be able to provide.
Whatever the emerging system looks like, we’ll need much more social value-based commissioning that our report Healthy Commissioning looked at; the NHS Confederation was kind enough to recently highlight the report.
A Labour Government in waiting?
The 2017 manifestos were all a bit hurried, and Labour’s was no exception. Work is now underway by Labour to create what are, in effect, implementation plans for what has been promised, so that if Labour does get into power in the next few years then the transition into power will be as smooth as possible. On ethical procurement, energy, financial exclusion, homelessness and much more there are possibilities for social enterprises but there does need to be some thought put into policy design – one reason Peter met Deputy Leader and Shadow Secretary of State Tom Watson MP and Shadow Civil Society Minister Steve Reed MP recently.
DCMS has around 550 staff and the Office for Civil Society within it has 87 staff members, 15% of the Department’s headcount. We might therefore have expectations that 15% of DCMS’ output will be related to issues and concerns of civil society if DCMS is serious about wider sector.