TSRC Working Paper 123

by Jenny Harlock


Amid increased pressure on TSOs to provide evidence of the effectiveness of their services and interventions (House of Commons Public Administration Select Committee 2008, Inspiring Impact, 2013) the Public Services (Social Value) Act (2012) has been seen as an important opportunity for third sector organisations (TSOs) to demonstrate the value and impact of what it is they do.

Drawing on interviews with adult social care commissioners in six local authorities in England, this paper examines how social value – as a key dimension to outcomes-based commissioning – is being assessed and applied in commissioning processes with the third sector, and examines the nature of the evidence required by commissioners from TSOs to demonstrate their effectiveness.

The interviews found that difficulties in quantifying and measuring social value posed considerable challenges to its implementation. Meanwhile pressures associated with safeguarding vulnerable service users and financial accountability were found to significantly shape commissioners’ requirements for evidence and data from service providers.

In light of these findings the paper argues that the challenge of measuring and demonstrating social value, and holding public sector commissioners to account for its implementation, is likely to fall to the third sector.