Author: Joanne Harper

Business Development Manager Vacancy

THE APPLICATION DEADLINE FOR THIS VACANCY HAS PASSED

We are looking for an Experienced Business Development Manager to join our Our Team on a fixed term basis.

Gateway Family Services (GFS) is in its twelfth year and in that time it has grown to be recognised as one of the key providers of health and social care in Birmingham and the surrounding area. It has developed and delivered services, worked independently, collaboratively and in partnership.

However the business environment that GFS is currently operating in has changed markedly from that which existed when the C.I.C was established. There is intense financial pressure on the sector leading to many services disappearing or drastically reducing. Those weathering the storm best are those who have been able to compete, adapt and diversity which is why we are seeking to appoint this role to help us identify wider opportunities, engage in new networks and ultimately secure new work.

Interested?  Please take a look at the Job Advert  for more information and details of how to apply. PLEASE NOTE: THE APPLICATION DEADLINE FOR THIS VACANCY HAS PASSED

Business Development Job Description

If you’d like an informal chat about the role please contact Katherine Hewitt on 0121 456 7820/07584 682307 or via email; katherine.hewitt@gatewayfs.org

Applications can be requested from Maxine Brown on 0121 456 7820 or via email; maxine.brown@gatewayfs.org

Fun for all the family at our Health and Wellbeing Day

Medals for those who completed the 5K!

Thanks to everyone who came to our Family Health and Wellbeing Day in Cannon Hill Park on Saturday. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!

This annual event has grown, in the last few years, from a simple Fun Run into a community event for all the family. This year’s Family Health and Wellbeing Day included health checks, parenting information, dance lessons, Tai Chi classes, games and activities for children, and two “fun run” courses – long and short – for people to run or walk.

Health Trainer Wayne carrying out a Health Check

The idea is for everyone to be able to take part in a healthy activity, no matter what their age, mobility or current physical activity levels.

Our services, including Health Trainers, Pregnancy Outreach Workers and Pre-Diabetes courses, work with people of all abilities and we’re keen for everyone to be able to get involved.

Getting some baby bath tips from POWS

We know that mental wellbeing is just as important as physical wellbeing, and the two are closely linked. So we wanted to make sure everyone had a chance to socialise and meet new friends, as well as taking the opportunity to get moving!

Saturday morning started off a bit damp, but the sun soon came out, turning it into a fabulous day for a picnic in the park. Gateway Health Trainers and Pregnancy Outreach Workers were on hand to give out health advice, carrying out health checks and parenting classes. Around 15 people entered our Fun Run, including Raymond (featured in the video below) who completed both the short course AND the full 5K with his Health Trainer Beckie!

Reza DanceFitness got us dancing

Steve from Painting the Rainbow did two Tai Chi sessions which were the perfect foil to the run – a relaxing work out for everyone. And Teresa from Reza Dance got people moving with some lively dance fitness sessions.

The kids had a great time doing a range of activities, from storytelling on the bandstand to giant Jenga and Connect 4 games, and some races especially for them.

Children enjoyed some games in the sunshine

And of course, the whole thing was topped off by a lovely picnic lunch. Everyone who registered got a goodie bag which included some healthy snacks and refreshments.

Thanks again to everyone who got involved, including Gateway staff and our friends at partner organisations who led the sessions and spread the word. Some of you may even spot yourselves in the video below…

See you again next year!

Get the whole family active at our Health and Wellbeing Day!

Click on the picture to download the full-size poster (PDF)

Looking for some easy ways to get happier and healthier? Join us for our free Family Health and Wellbeing Day on Saturday 1st July in Cannon Hill Park from 10am until 1pm. (Meet you by the bandstand!)

Building on the success of last year’s Community Fun Day, and the Fun Runs from previous years, the Family Health and Wellbeing Day is open to everyone and will include loads of fun activities for all the family, plus a free* picnic lunch, including healthy recipes to take away.

Physical activity will still be a big part of the day – we’ll still be holding the 5K Fun Run (or walk, if you prefer!) – but we wanted to make the day even more inclusive, so we’ll be putting on a range of health and wellbeing activities for all ages and abilities.

That includes some healthy picnic food, with free advice about healthy cooking and eating for those who want it… and the chance to meet new people. After all, we know that being sociable is really good for your mental health!

Our health teams will be on hand throughout the day to offer motivation and advice about all aspects of health and wellbeing, including one-to-one health checks and information about what other activities are available in your area.

We’d love to get you moving!

We know lots of people like to do the 5K Fun Run around the park, so there will be warm-up exercises and support from our Health Trainers for anyone who wants to give that a go this year. Perhaps you can beat your time from last year!

We also recognise that many people don’t want, or aren’t able, to do the 5k route, but we’d love to get everyone moving, even if it’s just a little bit. So there will be plenty of other opportunities to get active. You could join the beginners’ Tai Chi class, run by our friends at Painting the Rainbow, or perhaps a dance class led by Reza DanceFitness, who some of you might know through Solihull Lighten Up. (Make sure you wear suitable clothing.)

We’ll also be putting on more activities for children, as we saw how much fun they had last time. The kids really enjoyed the impromptu races last year, so we’ll make sure they get to run about even more this year with a range of races and silly games. There will also be storytelling sessions to feed the little ones’ growing imaginations and, of course, some facepainting fun.

*The Family Health and Wellbeing Day is totally free and you can turn up on the day – we’ll be by the bandstand – but if you want to receive a free picnic, you must register first by emailing your name, number of guests and any special dietary requirements to info@gatewayfs.org. You can also register by phone on 0121 456 7820, or even on Twitter by using the hashtag #GatewayFun (please ensure we send a confirmation reply, though!)

We look forward to seeing you there!

Health Trainer group at the Signing Tree

Positive partnerships: strength in numbers!

Forming strong partnerships with other local organisations is a very important part of Gateway’s work.

By sharing resources we are able to provide a more cost-effective, joined-up service – both as an individual organisation and as a sector. In an environment where budgets are shrinking, effective partnerships mean less duplication of work, which saves vital resources. It also means less “pushing from pillar to post” for clients, easier access to services and one point of contact to help someone navigate through services.

People rarely have one issue they need support with, so all our services have always worked in partnership with other organisations, either formally or informally. Over the last couple of years, however, partnership work has become even more important to the Health Trainer service as they have started working with broader groups of people, reaching out to communities who might not otherwise be able to access the service.

Health Trainers at The Signing Tree

One partnership that we’ve set up relatively recently is with BID Services, a charity supporting people who are deaf, hard of hearing, visually impaired or have a dual sensory loss. BID Services runs a social enterprise called the Signing Tree, based at the Deaf Cultural Centre in Ladywood – and it’s here we now run a Health Trainer service with interpreters (one provided by Gateway, and the other by BID).

Gateway Health Trainer Richard, pictured, says, “I visit the Signing Tree once a month, where I set up a classroom together with two interpreters. If it wasn’t for them, the communication barrier would definitely be a sticking point – I don’t think many of the people I see at the Signing Tree would contact the Health Trainer service otherwise. The interpreters are brilliant – they actually get involved and help me to provide an informative yet fun session each month. We have 15 clients per session and it’s very popular – in fact last time, I had to turn four people away.”

Bhavana Jamin, Specialist Enablement Co-ordinator at BID, says, “This has been a positive experience for all the deaf people involved. The trainers make the pace of the sessions meet the clients’ needs and by this the clients became confident to participate and engage with the sessions. They gain access to information about their health and wellbeing that they may not be able to access from other areas, so they now have some knowledge of healthy food choices, and the information is presented visually.

“Word of mouth has been used to promote these sessions within the community and I now have a waiting list of people who would also like training in the future. So I look forward to working with Gateway again in the future.”

Strong partnerships allow us to do several things, especially when clients have more complex needs. They enable us to have an up-to-date knowledge of the issues that people in Birmingham are facing, so we can adapt the services we offer and respond to need as quickly and usefully as possible. It means more opportunity to help clients prioritise their needs, and to deal with issues in a way that suits the individual, by taking the services to them.

As well as the Signing Tree, we now also deliver services in partnership with a number of other organisations, including Jobcentres in South Birmingham, and Cerebral Palsy Midlands, based in Harborne.

If you would like to know more about working with Gateway, whether that’s to work with our Health Trainer service, or any other Gateway services, for example the Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service, do contact us – we’d be very pleased to hear from you.

Richard, Health Trainer

Health Trainers service at risk: please help

If you value the Health Trainers service, then we want to hear from you.

The latest round of cuts to services in Birmingham is being discussed as part of the Birmingham City Council’s budget consultation, and one of the services highlighted as being at risk is the Health Trainers service.

Health Trainers are one of the few discretionary services provided by Public Health (ie they are not statutory services), which means they are most susceptible to cuts. It’s possible that funding to the Health Trainers service will be cut dramatically, if not completely, later this year. We are currently putting together a response to the consultation to explain why Health Trainers are important to the city, and to thousands of people who receive their support.

One of the letters we’ve already received is from a woman explaining how her mother was helped by Beckie, a Gateway Health Trainer.
If you have benefited from a working with a Health Trainer, please let us know how they helped. What was your experience? What would your situation be like now if it wasn’t for your Health Trainer?

If you haven’t been supported directly, but you understand the value of the service, maybe as a partner or referrer, we’d still be very grateful for your feedback.

You can send comments to us via email at MichelleS@gatewayfs.org, or write to us at: Gateway Family Services, 5th Floor, Chamber of Commerce House, 75 Harborne Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 3DH, and we’ll include your comments in the response we give to the consultation next week.

Alternatively, you can respond to the consultation directly by filling out the Council survey before next Wednesday, 18th January.

And if you’d like some inspiration, read on to hear why we think this service is so important…

Health Trainers: we give you extra!

The Health Trainer service isn’t just about weight management; it’s a long term, preventative service. Health Trainers help people to make lifestyle changes that have far-reaching consequences and so reduce the impact on other services.

Health Trainer Wayne visiting a local homeless hostel last month
In the last year, our Health Trainers have supported more than 2,000 people to increase their physical activity and to eat more healthily. But they’ve also helped hundreds of people to learn how to budget and to learn how to cook. They’ve helped people who were at risk of diabetes, or high blood pressure, to reduce their risk in the long term. They’ve set up group activities – which increase physical activity and reduce social isolation – and signposted people to many more. They’ve even helped people with housing issues, benefits claims and access to food parcels; issues that aren’t medical but nevertheless have a big impact on health.

Like all of Gateway’s services, our Health Trainers are an adaptable, flexible team. They offer home visits and phone support as well as community consultations. They respond to need as it happens and they put their wide network of contacts and skills to good use. They offer practical advice, but they also offer time, and someone to talk to.

More than 40% of the people Gateway Health Trainers have supported in the last year are from vulnerable groups, such as older people, people with mental health issues, and people who have an issue with substance misuse. And around 65% of Health Trainer clients are from deprived areas of the city. We know that people in these groups are much less likely to access resources on their own, which is why access to a Health Trainer is so vital: many of the people we work with would not otherwise receive any ongoing support at all.

Please help us to show why the service should stay.

Not just a Fun Run – a day out with a difference!

Click the poster to view full size
Click the poster to view full size

This year we’re holding a Fun Run with a difference – a Free Community Fun Day for all the family!

GATEWAY FUN RUN/WALK AND COMMUNITY FUN DAY
DATE: Saturday 23rd July 2016
TIME: 10:30am – 13:00pm (but please arrive early to register and warm up)
LOCATION: The Bandstand, Cannon Hill Park, B13 8RD

We’re still inviting people to run or walk the 5km route, with the support of our Health Trainers, but this year there will be a lot more activities on offer too.

Why are we changing the focus of the day?

All of Gateway’s services (Health Trainers, Lighten Up, Gateway Healthy Futures, Pre Diabetes and the Pregnancy Outreach Worker Service) have an impact on the whole family, and their work isn’t just about healthy eating and exercise – it’s about leading a happier life. A lot of the people we work with are looking for more reasons to get out and about and meet more people, so we’re hoping that a Community Fun Day will give everyone that opportunity.

Health Trainers preparing to marshal last year's Fun Run
Health Trainers preparing to marshal a previous Fun Run

As well as the fun warm-ups and the 5km run (or walk, or stroll…) we’ll have a snack bar serving healthy snacks and refreshments, and some new activities: children’s races and games, story-telling from our very own Jane, and face painting by Sara. Of course, the activities are aimed at kids, but adults are very welcome to join in too!

We hope that a shared day out will be fun for everyone, and we look forward to seeing some new faces, as well as those of you who enjoy this day out every year. Everyone is welcome, and you don’t have to be a client of Gateway to get on board. Just give us a ring on 0121 456 7820 to register your interest and get your name down for a free snack bag!

Whether you want to beat your personal best at the 5km, find out more about our services, or just meet some new people and maybe make a few friends in an informal atmosphere, we’d love to see you.

Health Trainers go above and beyond

When you hear the term Health Trainer, you might think of the work they do to support people to diet and get down to the gym.

Health Trainers Josh and WayneBut a Health Trainer’s work isn’t all about healthy eating and exercise. Health Trainers, like all of our services, support the whole person.

We know that people who are in debt or worrying about their housing are less likely to stop smoking or to start eating well. Once someone feels like their life is on a more even keel, however, they are more likely to become physically healthier.

So, for us, it’s important that Health Trainers look at all the issues that their clients face and support them with any changes they want to make. This might mean signposting someone to another agency for help with substance misuse, finances, domestic abuse or housing; or it might mean giving them the opportunity to find – and the confidence to join – community groups or classes.

Health Trainers, like all Gateway’s staff, are trained extensively to equip clients with the latest information on, for example, changes to the benefits system and other social issues that could affect them.

They’re also experts in behavioural change, and the principles of behaviour change apply across the board – so seeing a Health Trainer, and learning how to recognise patterns of unhelpful behaviour, can have a positive impact on all areas of a person’s life.

And, of course, being part of Gateway means that Health Trainers have access to a huge knowledge base and network. So although they can’t be experts in everything, they are experts in finding someone who is!

In some cases Health Trainers get involved with organising groups, classes and events themselves. Just this week we received a letter from Pauline at the Long Term Conditions group that we help to run:

“…we would not have been able to continue with the group meetings without Gateway’s help. All the members of our small committee have long term health conditions and, as each year passes, we depend more and more on Gateway to expertly manage our budget, make all the arrangements for our speakers, catering and venue, arrange transport for those who need it and generally and enthusiastically make tea, answer questions, assist the less able with their lunch and much more………and all with a smile. They also help us to complete the CCG forms and signpost us to services that can help with specific problems…..as well as encouraging those who are able to go to the meetings that enable us to contribute our opinions (and needs) on health and social services matters.”

Wellbeing Advisor Scheme

One way in which we are currently building on the work that Health Trainers do, and evolving the service, is via a new Wellbeing Advisor scheme.

This is a pilot we set up with a group of nine Northfield Practices within Cross City CCG who form the Northfield Alliance.

All the practices have a Health Trainer assigned to them, so they’re already familiar with the service, but one practice and GP in particular, Dr Peter Arora from Jiggins Lane Surgery, wanted a service that also met the needs of patients who were presenting with an increasing range of social issues, including debt, caring responsibilities, housing problems and social isolation.

So we met with Dr Arora and our Health Trainer Commissioner, Elaine George, to agree how we might be able to support clients, and what sort of referral pathway would work best.

Now, GPs and other practice staff at Northfield Alliance practices directly refer to Health Trainers as before, but the referral form lists any additional social issues and Gateway effectively takes responsibility for that client and any interaction or engagement they have with other agencies.

walkingOur main partner in the scheme is Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and in agreeing to be referred to the scheme, patients agree to a referral to both Health Trainers and CAB. Obviously for some people, their social issue takes precedence and in those cases we refer them to CAB initially, but then follow up at a later date to establish if they are at the point at which they’d like to work with a Health Trainer for lifestyle support.

While CAB are the main partner, Health Trainers also direct people to other agencies, such as our own Befriending Service, and of course through setting up group activities themselves such as EXTEND classes, Long Term Conditions groups, and walking groups.

Being able to support the whole person, and provide behaviour change tools to influence all aspects of their life, from health, to wellbeing via finance and housing means, we believe, more sustainable results for that person, less pressure on services such as GP, Social Services, DWP etc and a happier, healthier population.

Extending our weight management support: Solihull

As 2015 draws to a close, we’re very pleased to announce a new project for Gateway that will be starting in the new year: a weight management programme commissioned by Solihull Council.

The service will be very similar to the Gateway Lighten Up service that we run in Birmingham, with a call centre to triage people and provide regular support phonecalls, but it will have a bigger focus on behaviour change interventions with face to face and phone support on offer.

adult obesity in Solihull
Click to view PDF showing adult obesity levels in Solihull (pic: Solihull Council)

Why Solihull? Well, we know obesity is an issue nationwide, and affects people across the country. In Solihull, the north of the Borough has a particularly high prevalence of obesity, at around 31.4% compared to 23% in England and 23.7% in the remainder of Solihull, so we’ll be working with people in the north Solihull areas – Fordbridge, Kingshurst, Chelmsley Wood, Bickenhill and Smith’s Wood – to reduce obesity rates.

We’ll be working predominantly with people who have a BMI of over 30, with a particular focus on people with learning disabilities, disabled people and their carers, people with mental health issues, people over 40 and recent ex smokers.

Thanks to our years of experience in Birmingham, we already have a good knowledge of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to weight management. Our experienced call centre staff are set up and ready to go – they have already undertaken Behaviour Change training in order to promote weight loss and retention in weight management services.

For each client in the new programme, we’ll look at the many options that are available locally, and work with them to provide tailored options that meet their specific needs. As well as offering access to weight loss groups, we will be aiming to improve people’s overall wellbeing, and our staff will be working with their clients to find ways in which the whole family can get involved.

Lighten Up team at work
The Gateway Lighten Up team at work

And, of course, each person will get “wraparound support” via regular phonecalls from our dedicated staff, as well as face to face behaviour change support.

Working in partnership with established organisations in the Solihull area, we’ll be able to offer people a range of physical activities (including EXTEND, Tai Chi and walking groups) that are accessible to everyone and easy to sustain. And there will be a strong emphasis on getting other family members involved, with activities like “cook and taste” sessions and dance classes.

For those people with more complex needs there will be specialist support on hand, including one to one support from a dietician.

We especially like the focus on using local providers, as this mirrors our social value principles of recruiting from local communities and providing sustainable opportunities that people can keep up, long after contracts have ceased.

One of Gateway’s key areas of expertise is working with vulnerable groups, and this contract will be focusing on the most vulnerable groups in the Solihull Borough, so we are pleased to have the opportunity to roll out and demonstrate our way of working outside of Birmingham.

We recognise that Local Authorities and Public Health Services will be facing greater financial pressures in coming years, and moving into a new geographical area allows us to show that our approach can work in a variety of different area types, allowing the most vulnerable or in-need communities to access services wherever they live. We’re very much looking forward to working in Solihull.

Gateway is the Business with Heart champion!

business-with-heart-presentation-cropWe’re delighted to announce that we have been named as the Social Enterprise Mark ‘Business with Heart’ champion!

Gateway staff and managers went to the Social Enterprise Mark conference yesterday, which celebrated the 5th birthday of the Social Enterprise Mark, to be presented with the award.

We entered the competition by submitting a photo to show why we are a “business with heart”.

Jamie Forbes, Lighten Up Co-ordinator said, “Maxine, our Office Manager, saw the competition and suggested at the staff forum that we should enter. It seemed like a good opportunity to share our work with a wider audience. I suggested forming a heart shape around our banner, and it escalated from there!”

business-with-heart-smallerStaff from all levels of the organisation, from our volunteers to our CEO, took part in the photo. We’re holding hands around a banner that shows around 100 photos of clients, taken by staff as part of their day to day work.

The description to go along with the photo read:

Gateway Family Services CIC works to improve health, develop skills and opportunities, and fight inequalities. We cover areas like employment training, weight loss and pregnancy outreach, and social value is at the heart of everything we do.

The judging panel at Social Enterprise Mark chose Gateway from the five photos that got the most public votes.

Anne Mountjoy from Social Enterprise Mark said, “The judging panel advised that the decision was a difficult one to reach but your entry was outstanding, being particularly strong in showing that your team understand Gateway Family Services are a business with heart – with the linking of hands a strong indicator of this and through your description, putting social value at the heart of everything you do.”

Jamie said, “It came together easily, but the photo – the staff who got together, and the banner showing our work – wouldn’t have been possible if Gateway wasn’t the sort of organisation it is.”

Watch Jamie receive the award from Nigel Kershaw of the Big Issue:

Social responsibility

social-enterprise-mark-300We’ve been members of the Social Enterprise Mark for a long time. We’re proud to say we were one of the first to sign up to the Mark in 2009 – before it was even officially launched. At the time we described the Mark as “cementing our ethos” and it continues to be a standard we are proud to live up to.

But it’s also nice to win a competition like this and get external recognition of the work that, actually, we do as a matter of course. The “social” part of our social enterprise really is at the heart of everything we do. Adding social value is what the organisation was set up to do; it’s what we have always done – it’s just that now, that’s what it’s called!

Last week we also became a signatory of the Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility. This meant signing up to an action plan to meet new targets in six areas of social responsibility:

  • Local Employment
  • Buy Birmingham First
  • Partners in Communities
  • Good Employer
  • Green and Sustainable
  • Ethical Procurement

The Charter sets parameters for our work. For example: now we will offer a minimum number of work experience placements for local students, we will involve a certain number of local groups in our fun run, we’ll expand our bike hire scheme by investing in another bicycle, and we’ll recruit and train five more local people with emerging language skills to join our interpreting agency. Most are things we would do already, but now we’ve set smart outcomes for them.

Birmingham_Business_Charter_landscape_with_regAs well as helping us firm up our commitment, the Charter has helped us recognise areas where we could do more – like in the area of “green and sustainable”. It’s part of our delivery to see local needs and respond to them, but the Charter has helped us to think globally too. So we’ve set new targets on office recycling, started a mileage scheme for bicycle users and procured battery recycling boxes for the office.

We feel that as a social enterprise it’s our responsibility to give lots of value. We’re a business, so we have to make the “enterprise” work but, actually, the “social” makes the “enterprise” run more successfully. For example, we recruit locally, and we’ve identified via a recent audit that 80% of our staff live in the areas of Birmingham that are classed as most deprived*. Sometimes these are people who have found it more difficult to get work, so we give them more support and training, but the trade-off is members of staff who are more committed; who understand people’s needs and have a rapport with their clients, which helps Gateway to achieve greater results. When we upskill our staff, we’re supporting the local community and the local economy, and our staff value us as employers.

Signing up to a Charter, or for the Mark, or entering for a competition like Business with Heart, helps us to examine what we do. It makes it easier to find out if there’s scope to do more, and to share with – and learn from – other organisations. We couldn’t be as successful as we are without them.

*resident in deciles 1-4, deciles determined by the indices of multiple deprivation

Social Value: at the heart of our work

paper-chain-peopleAs Operations Manager, part of my role is to look at the values and wider benefits that our services bring – not just to our clients, but to the wider community. More recently, this has become known as Social Value, and since the Social Value Act was introduced in 2012, more commissioners are starting to make it a key consideration when procuring services.

When we are commissioned to provide our services, we are generally measured on the number of clients who come through each service. But that doesn’t really reflect the wider picture: what our services are offering, or what people are getting out of using them: the “Social Value”.

So as well as counting the number of people who see, eg, a Health Trainer, or a Pregnancy Outreach Worker, and measuring the obvious outcomes such as who’s stopped smoking, or who’s started breastfeeding, we also measure the Social Value ‘extras’. Things like: who has reported a positive impact on their children’s health; who, as a result of losing weight, feels more confident and may even have found work; who is visiting their GP less because their health condition is now more controlled. We use this information to see where the gaps are, and how we can make changes to fill those gaps.

At Gateway, all of our clients, across all of our services, can access extra help if they need it. Things like our foodbank, our bike hire scheme and our cooking mentors have been set up in response to gaps – situations where we’ve seen an unfulfilled need. These extras offer an obvious direct benefit, but the real social value comes from the indirect, longer term, outcomes. For instance, if we see that someone needs more than a couple of food parcels, we’ll work with them to give them support and one-to-one help with budgeting and finances. This can minimise impact on other services – it might mean they don’t have to claim DWP emergency payments, for example – and gives them resilience. It has a wider social value.

Social Value has always been important to us here at Gateway – one of our core values is that “Everything we do has a positive social impact” – and we’re very pleased to see it’s becoming more important to commissioners too. But, as reflected in Lord Young’s recent review of the Social Value Act, the buy-in seems a little patchy. Different public bodies seem to see “social value” in different ways, and only some measure it directly.

A recent tender application we looked at for a neighbouring local authority allocated a clear five percent of the mark to the social value we could offer. For some, it’s up to forty percent!

Birmingham states that its “implementation of the duties of the Act will be as wide as practicable and the Council will seek to secure social value outcomes from its commissioning activities with all providers, for services, works and goods, and for all contract values”, and those who tender are asked to fill in very detailed documents, including the Birmingham Business Charter for Social Responsibility Action Plan. It’s a good start, but we’d like to see definite indication of how the information will be taken into account, especially when looking at providers.

One of the definitions the Act gives of “Social Value” includes the concept of “more value for money”, but only as part of a bigger picture. The ability to offer more for less money doesn’t necessarily provide social value and could in fact be a barrier for Third Sector organisations. At a recent Social Enterprise event, one example I was given of “social value” was that an organisation had procured bin lorries – they asked for nine, but they received ten, which included one they could use for training. That’s great, but the ability to offer freebies isn’t the sort of added value that smaller organisations can aspire to; most can’t afford to give things away.

It would be good to strengthen the Act to ensure that public bodies can’t ignore the demonstrated wider social value in order to go with the short term cheapest option. To us, the social value doesn’t just come from bringing more people into our services, but by gathering the right information, making astute decisions based on that information, and being constantly adaptable and flexible. Gateway saves money by reducing GP visits, by ensuring that fewer babies are having to engage with social services, by increasing people’s employability, or reducing their social isolation, and by building people’s resilience. By working together to fill gaps and provide interventions, we reach more people, whilst reducing pressure on other services and ensuring that the city’s money goes as far as it possibly can. To us, that’s true social value.