Meet our Expert

Jonathan_SchiffresJonathan Schiffres – Consultant, nef Consulting 

Jonathan is a consultant with a focus on using nef tools to evaluate community development work, and regeneration projects in the built environment. He is an accredited practitioner of social return on investment (SROI) and is part of the nef consulting delivery team for SROI training. He has a strong interest in sustainable urban design, and remains a volunteer for several community projects.


“How will the Public Services (Social Value) Act will affect me?”


The answer

This Act, coming into force in January 2013 will require all public bodies to consider social, economic and environmental value when they commission services from external providers. It presents a real opportunity for the public sector to maximise the wider value it gains from commissioning its services through other organisations.

So what does this mean for the third sector? The term social value covers a range of definitions, some more ambitious than others. At nef, we think that society, the economy and environment are interlinked and can be mutually re-enforcing – as can the outcomes we try and create in these areas.

The Act requires public bodies to “consider” how they can improve the social, economic and  environment wellbeing of the proposed delivery area. It requires them to consider this in a way that is “relevant” to what is being procured, and it must be “proportionate” to the circumstances. In other words, they need to take steps to show that they have been through a consideration process to reduce any challenge (with consultation if necessary), but how they wish to do this will depend on the body in question. It’s our hope at nef that public bodies will use the Act as an opportunity to gain better value from their commissioning, maximising the returns to society rather than aiming for the bare minimum to avoid legal challenge.

How could this work in practice? For an example of how this approach has been applied, nef’s work with Camden Council looked at how to maximise gains from the commissioning of adult mental health services, working closely with providers to define outcomes and feed into service specifications. Nef’s work in Surrey is currently looking at how existing strategic aims and feedback from wider consultation can be brought together to ensure a better understanding of what matters to young people, before designing the service specifications.

This Act presents a real opportunity for you to request that public bodies that you work with show how they are thinking about social value and what it means in terms of commissioning and reviewing local services, rather than focusing heavily on the cost of the intervention. It’s about investing in longer term changes in communities and looking at ways this can be achieved. It is also an opportunity to present your experiences of how local work can have wide reaching impact outside the specific service provided, without incurring additional costs for the public body.