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Smart procurement in difficult times

We all know that cuts to the welfare budgets are harder and faster than anticipated, but what does this actually mean for social landlords and the most vulnerable in our society? Whilst we don’t want to underestimate the challenges the sector currently faces, it’s time we all took stock of the services that we provide, our aims and objects and how we can improve the way we do business before the cuts really start to bite. Kirsty Ellis explores some ideas……

Supported businesses support communities

Commentators have suggested that one of the groups most affected by the cuts will be disabled people, as often they have multiple barriers to employment. Thankfully Wales now has 21 supported businesses, where at least 50% of the workforce is disabled, employing over 800 disabled people.

It is true to say that supported businesses are changing. No longer should there be the perception that they simply provide disabled people with meaningful activities that produce substandard products. In fact, they are organisations growing in business acumen and responsible for producing a wide range of highly sought after products and services, such as UPVC windows and doors, IT refurbishment and recycling, interior design and furniture, signage, community equipment and so on. It is now recognised that their products are competitive in the marketplace on quality and price.

Using a supported business should make sense for all social landlords whose objectives remain committed to community regeneration, keeping the pound local and creating job opportunities for people furthest from the labour market, many of which live in social housing and supported housing across Wales.

However, if this isn’t a persuasive business case alone, there is EU procurement legislation to help in the form of the Revised EU Procurement Directive Jan 2006 Article 19. This allows buyers to set aside a percentage of their contract specifically for a supported business. It means that only a supported business can tender for that lot.

The Welsh Assembly Government through Value Wales champions this approach and states:

‘It is Welsh Assembly Government policy to, as far as possible, give people with disabilities the opportunity to enter the labour market.

Therefore public expenditure should be used in a way that supports this objective wherever practical.’

So, whether you encourage the use of supported business through your objectives, or through the use of procurement legislation, if the cost and quality are right, using supported businesses is another quick win in achieving community regeneration.

For more information on supported businesses and the use of Article 19, please email [email protected]

TR&T: the way forward

With the cuts to welfare and housing budgets imminent, housing and support providers are going to have to work smarter and harder to deliver innovative tenant centred services and essentially do more with less. Although i2i do not underestimate the huge challenge that this brings to the sector, as always, there are opportunities to think outside the box and establish innovative solutions. It is time for organisations to take the successes that TR&T has had in the field of maintenance, development and WHQS improvements and hardwire the concept into the wider landlord function.

Changes to the housing benefit system will affect both tenants and landlords, so this is a key time for organisations to mainstream TR&T and the welfare to work agenda into housing management services and corporate activities. Whether it be about undertaking tenant profiling exercises in order to be able to signpost tenants to the relevant welfare to work agencies, or joining up the procurement opportunities throughout the organisation such as development, maintenance, office supplies, IT or banking services, TR&T and community benefits should be the golden thread running through the heart of the organisation. At a time when income streams are drying up, landlords need to do everything possible to ensure that they assist tenants to maintain their tenancies and support them through this difficult time.

Supported housing and social services providers procure large care packages for people who live in their properties. Commissioners should be thinking ahead to deliver added value in the form of jobs and training opportunities, both for people looking to gain employment in this sector and people who are supported by the organisations.

i2i is currently undertaking a TR&T: 2 year on report to highlight the good practice through TR&T that has taken place this year including trainees delivered through the ARBED programme as well as through WHQS and development programmes. Look out for the report in 2011!

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