Promoting Employment of Disabled Workers Through Procurement Actions – Any Examples?

“Social Value” has become a big issue for public procurement over recent years – and indeed, the concept of “procurement with purpose” that we and others (including SAP Ariba) have been talking about extensively this year is just as valid in the private sector as it is in the public. (You can still download our paper on that topic, free on registration, via this link).

The idea is that procurement should do more than simply deliver economic value for money, and one aspect of this is around support for people with disabilities and health issues. For instance, this can mean making sure our own procurement people and suppliers are responsive and sensitive to issues – do our IT support service levels make it a priority for the supplier to respond quickly to issues our own staff might have around technology accessibility, for instance?

It also can relate to encouraging our suppliers and indeed wider supply chain participants to offer more employment opportunities to people with disabilities and health issues. This can be done in many cases quite legitimately in the UK public sector under the provisions of the Social Value Act – and of course there is nothing to stop private sector firms doing this too.

I’ve got some personal interest in this area through family experience, and I was a non-executive director for Remploy for several years. Remploy went through a difficult translation as it was realised by experts (and most disabled people themselves) that it was better to get people into mainstream employment and organisations rather than having “ghetto” factories full of staff with those issues. So, given that interest, I’ve been giving a little bit of advice recently to Disability Rights UK, which supports the cause of increasing employment opportunities.

Anyway, getting to the point, we and Disability Rights UK, would love to hear about any success stories in terms of how procurement has been used to encourage the employment of staff with disabilities and health issues. It does not matter exactly how it was done, and whether it led to one or a thousand people being employed, I’d very much like to hear the story. My assumption is that there must be public sector social value examples, but equally some private firms may have taken actions successfully in this field too.

Disability Rights UK would like to know about these success stories (even if they are anonymised) because they will be useful both as good practice examples for others to consider and generally  when they promote their case. If you don’t want publicity, that is fine, it will still help us to understand what works – of course, you may well be pleased to publicise your successful work, and we will be happy to do that.

So, if you have something to say, you can either comment here, or drop me an email – psmith (at) spendmatters.com. Thanks!

Voices (3)

  1. Helen Mackenzie:

    in Scotland the Scottish Government put a framework agreement in place for Supported Businesses so that contracts can be reserved and awarded to these organisations. SG also included provision in the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 s11.
    A supported business is like a “sheltered workshop” or specifically a business with a percentage of people in the workforce with a disability.
    So with the framework in place we could reserve the contract and just award. All Scottsh public bodies are expected to consider awarding contracts to supported businesses and we set targets to increase this spend every year. In my own organisation we’ve proactively ensured that organisations like Dovetail, based in Dundee who are a supported business that make furniture, have been awarded contracts. We are always looking for more opportunities.
    Here’s a link to our current framework agreement
    https://www.gov.scot/Topics/Government/Procurement/directory/frameworksupportedfactbus

  2. Andy:

    Also in public procurement we have struggled to introduce effective measures to address this issue because of the requirement for contract conditions to be “linked to the subject matter of the contract” (Regulation 70). I’m interested to know how other readers interpret this requirement.

  3. Dan:

    As far as public procurement, it is possible to ringfence contracts to ‘sheltered workshops’ which specialise in employing disabled people. Its a strange one, given that those organisations are increasingly rare, and the procurement regs are otherwise almost entirely about non-discrimination.

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