What is Buy Social?
Buy Social is a tool to maximise the benefits from the £2.6 billion spend on public procurement. It specifically addresses key quality of life indicators such as: personal well-being, social cohesion and inclusion, equal opportunities and sustainable development. The Social Value Unit’s role is to assist public bodies to design, implement and monitor social consideration clauses included in public contracts. The Unit have dedicated Development Officers to assist with Construction, Services and ICT contracts. Development Officers are able to work with public bodies to tailor social considerations in line with the Contracting Authority’s strategic priorities. Prior to 2019, one of the primary ways social benefit was achieved through public procurement was Targeted Recruitment and Training (TR&T). TR&T clauses require contractors to provide a proportion of the total weeks of employment on the contract to New Entrant Trainees (NETs). NETs are people who have no substantial work experience (such as school or college leavers) or people who are long-term unemployed. More recently, the Social Value Unit have developed clauses for other social considerations to maximise social value and have drafted new guidance in this area. These initiatives can include:
- work placements for people facing disadvantage
- skills development for existing employees
- opportunities for Social Enterprises/SME’s in the supply chain
- initiatives which encourage fair work practices
- business in education activities
- digital inclusion projects.
Why is Buy Social necessary?
Buy Social is underpinned by a range of policy initiatives, including the Sustainable Development Strategy for Northern Ireland which has two guiding principles:
- The first is the environmental principle of "living within environmental limits"
- The second is "ensuring a strong, healthy, just and equal society’ which refers to “promoting personal well-being, social cohesion and inclusion, and creating equal opportunity”
“the standard approach to be used in the procurement of construction projects [construction build] above £2m and infrastructure projects [construction civil] above £4m”,and that:
“the Buy Social model should be piloted in services contracts with a value exceeding £500,000 with a view to a standard approach being agreed”.The Procurement Board discussed the Buy Social Services Model at its meetings on 13 January and 24 February 2017 and following further discussion with a number of Departments the model is now agreed. The model should now be considered in services contracts with an anticipated value of £500,000 per annum or more. PGN 01/13 also recognises that Departments may wish to consider including wider social value initiatives in contracts and states:
"There is however, the opportunity for Departments to add their own social or economic goals and extend the inclusion of the Buy Social model to any contract irrespective of value."In addition to the legislative and policy requirements related to Social Considerations, considering social value in contracts can help contracting authorities:
- Achieve and report against draft Programme for Government 2016 – 2021 outcomes
- Achieve and report against their specific strategic objectives. For example, in Department of Justice contracts, the Contractor can be required to deliver work experience placements for people with an offending background.
- Lead by example. For example, in Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS) collaborative contracts, the Contractor can be required to recruit a number of people with a disability.
- Reduce the risk of organisational reputational damage. For example, organisations will suﬀer reputational damage and loss of citizen conﬁdence if they are found to be sourcing from suppliers who use exploitative labour.
- Contribute to a fairer and more equal society, by creating employability opportunities for those who are disadvantaged in the labour market.
- Contribute to a strong, competitive, regionally balanced economy by opening up opportunities for Social Enterprises, SMEs and micro business entities.
- Deliver best value for money
What is the Buy Social Services Approach?
The Buy Social Services Approach has been developed by the Strategic Investment Board and CPD. The Procurement Board discussed the Buy Social Services Model at its meetings on 13 January and 24 February 2017 and, following further discussion with a number of Departments, the model is now agreed. The model should now be considered in services contracts with an anticipated value of £500,000 per annum or more. The Social Value Unit have developed a points based approach to delivering social value in services and ICT contracts. Under this approach, the Contracting Authority can decide which social consideration initiatives are relevant to their contract. The Contractor will be required to deliver a minimum of 100 points per £1 million of contract value (and pro rata). The default position is that the points will be capped at an averaged contract value of £3 million per annum, although this may be increased on a contract by contract basis. The Contractor will have flexibility to choose which initiatives they deliver against, giving them the benefit of aligning the requirements of the client with their own business areas. More information on the Buy Social Approach for Services and ICT contracts can be found in the toolkit: Download the Services and ICT toolkit
What is the Buy Social Construction Approach?
The Buy Social Construction approach was developed in partnership with Government Departments, the construction Centres of Procurement Expertise and representatives from the local construction industry. The approach was endorsed by the Procurement Board in November 2015 and came into operation in April 2016. It sets a contractual requirement for a quantifiable number of targeted recruitment and training opportunities for New Entrant Trainees and work experience opportunities to be provided in Government construction contracts. The requirement is to be delivered by the main contractor and its supply chain. More information on the Buy Social Approach for Construction contracts can be found in the toolkit. Download the Construction toolkit
How is Buy Social monitored?
Where Buy Social requirements are included in the contract then they must be enforced. To facilitate this, the contractor must supply the client with progress reports as set out in the contract conditions. A robust monitoring system has been put in place so that, at intervals as stated in each contract, the contractor is to provide a listing of all the New Entrant Trainees that have been employed on the contract, as well as an update on any other social considerations included on the contract. The new monitoring system is a web-based system that works in the following way:
- On awarding a contract with a Buy Social target, the Client must contact SIB to register the contract information on the monitoring system.
- Once the contract is set up on the system, the contractor will be sent a username and password in order to access the contract report.
- The contractor completes the report with the details of any New Entrant Trainees that have been appointed under Buy Social and of other social consideration initiatives included on the contract.
- On the 1st of each month, the contractor will receive a reminder to update the report.
- The system will show the Buy Social targets and any progress against the targets to date.
- On the 20th of the month, both the Client and Contractor Project Managers will be emailed a report showing progress against targets.
How do I include Buy Social in a procurement?
The Buy Social Toolkits provide guidance on how to include Buy Social in business cases, contract notices, pre-qualification questionnaires and the invitation to tender. The Social Value Unit are also happy to provide advice on how to include Buy Social in procurements and can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org. Download the Construction toolkit Download the Services and ICT toolkit
What is a Broker?
A broker is a training/employability/community organisation which works with people who are eligible for Buy Social opportunities. These people may be looking for employment, work placement opportunities or employment support and the organisation may be open to receiving professional support from Contractors. Brokers can set up introductions for Contractors, help with supporting their clients and are often willing to work with a contractor to help them meet their Buy Social requirements.
Who is a New Entrant Trainee?
A New Entrant Trainee is one of the following:
- a person that is leaving or has, within the last 12 months, left an educational establishment or a training provider (including paid student work placements)
- a person aged under 25 that has been unemployed for more than 26 weeks and is seeking employment
- a person aged 25 or over that has been unemployed for more than 52 weeks and is seeking employment
- an existing ‘New Entrant Trainee’ that is seeking a new position to complete their ‘New Entrant’ period, or another person who is accepted as a New Entrant Trainee by the Client
- an apprentice who is undertaking a paid apprenticeship, registered within the ApprenticeshipsNI programme or a similar scheme agreed by the Employer, can be counted as a ‘New Entrant’ for up to 104 weeks.
- a professional trainee (post-primary degree or equivalent) who is working towards full corporate membership of a professional institution and/or registration body and is registered with an appropriate professional body. These individuals can be counted as a ‘New Entrant’ for up to 104 weeks.
- an undergraduate student working towards a primary degree and required by a university or college to undertake a placement in industry to gain relevant training and experience through paid employment. These individuals can be counted as a ‘New Entrant’ for up to 52 weeks.
- an other trainee who can be counted as a ‘New Entrant’ for up to 52 weeks. This category can include but are not limited to semi-skilled, operative, administration, health and safety, IT support, business improvement and other support positions.