Employers For Childcare welcomes changes to public procurement policy

Conor Murphy, MLA, Finance Minister today (Monday 7 February 2022) announced changes to Northern Ireland’s public procurement policy that will maximise opportunities for Social Enterprise businesses, as well as the voluntary and community sectors. He made the announcement during a visit to Clearer Water, a leading Social Enterprise, based in Larne.

Under a new Procurement Policy Note (PPN), which has been approved by the Executive, from June 2022, public sector tenders must include a minimum of 10% of total award criteria to social value. This will apply to service contracts valued above £123,000 and construction contracts valued above £4.7million – accounting for approximately 97% of total government procurement spend, which is upwards of £3 billion annually.  The minimum weighting will increase to 20% from June 2023 subject to review and approval by the Executive.

The change also requires government to remove unnecessary barriers to community groups and social enterprises in tendering for contracts. There is now a recognition that procurement is not always the right approach, and a requirement for government to consider other ways of commissioning services.

Commenting on the announcement, Employers For Childcare Chief Executive Marie Marin, who is also a Board member of Social Enterprise Northern Ireland, which has been lobbying hard for the inclusion of Social Value in public contracts said: “This change to procurement policy is an important and welcome move in Northern Ireland to ensure Government Departments are using their spending power to deliver meaningful social impact. Considering social value in any procurement process – as early as possible – will be key as we look towards economic and societal recovery from Covid-19. The recognition that there are other forms of procurement, other than tendering, is also welcome – there is now further work to be done, within government, to ensure that those responsible for commissioning services understand that different approaches are available to them, and the need to embed social value in their procurement processes”.

Marie continues: “Employers For Childcare is proud to be a Social Enterprise – a business that generates profits that, in turn, are used to make a positive difference in the lives of families across the UK. Since 2008 we have invested over £7 million from our Social Enterprise activities into the work of our charity, all made possible by employers choosing to ‘buy social’ and use our Childcare Vouchers to support their employees. This is a very real example of social value in action – and we look forward to this ‘new era’ in public procurement and the economic, environmental and societal benefits it will bring”.

To read the Minister’s statement in full, visit the Department of Finance website here. To learn about how your organisation can ‘buy social’ by switching your Childcare Vouchers to the UK’s only Social Enterprise provider, visit our website here.