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Public-Social Partnership Pilot (North Lanarkshire)
Trish Godman (Labour)
The final item of business today is a members' business debate on motion S3M-383, in the name of Michael McMahon, on the public-social partnership pilot in North Lanarkshire. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.
That the Parliament welcomes the public-social partnership (PSP) pilot in North Lanarkshire as an innovative method of engaging communities in public service design and delivery; notes that PSPs allow public bodies to use the procurement process to create added social benefit in the community and to engage service users in the design of services; further notes that the PSP model is innovative in its approach to testing new methods of service delivery under local authorities' duty to demonstrate best value, and recognises that, to reap the potential community benefits of PSPs, social enterprises must be fully supported in accessing long-term service level agreements and public contracts.
Michael McMahon (Labour)
It is with great pleasure that I bring this debate to the chamber this evening. I thank all members who have stayed behind to participate in, or listen to, what I consider a very important debate.
As I mention in my motion, the public-social partnership pilot in North Lanarkshire is
"an innovative method of engaging communities in public service design and delivery".
Public-social partnerships, which are based on an Italian planning approach, are a dynamic new mechanism for Scotland. PSPs bring together local authorities and social enterprises to create services that benefit the local community. Social enterprises are a diverse sector and include credit unions, housing associations, community development programmes and co-operatives, among others. Research by the Department of Trade and Industry in 2001 indicated that there were 1,100 social enterprises in Scotland, employing 30,000 people and adding £1.25 billion to our economy.
PSPs are a new approach to public service delivery. They allow contracts to reflect the added benefits that community organisations can bring to the running of services by including community and environmental clauses. The public-social partnership pilot in North Lanarkshire took place this year and has been led by the Community Recycling Network for Scotland with support from Edinburgh-based social enterprise, Forth Sector.
The PSP in North Lanarkshire focused on three services that were provided by the housing department: furniture storage for people who became homeless; an emergency furniture loan service; and permanent furniture packs. Those three services were provided by the groups participating in the PSP, which were Beulah Scotland, St Patrick's furniture project and RECAP—the recycling emergency community action programme. To date, those partners in the PSP have delivered help to 62 families. They will continue to help families in a similar situation until the end of this month, when the pilot will end and the content of the contract will be confirmed.
The pilot has had many benefits, not just for North Lanarkshire Council but for all the tenants who use the services that it provides. Tenants now have a choice of furniture for their home and purchase their furniture with vouchers, rather than just being given furniture that will do. That helps to ensure that tenants are treated with dignity at all times.
I am proud that North Lanarkshire Council has led the field with this ground-breaking pilot, which has great potential, for which the council should be recognised. The success of the pilot, and the council's belief in its social and economic benefits, have resulted in other councils making inquiries about how they can follow North Lanarkshire's lead. Furthermore, other departments within North Lanarkshire Council—such as the environmental services and social work departments—are now exploring the possibility of entering into a PSP agreement. I very much welcome that.
Local authorities may wish to establish a PSP because it would give them an opportunity to look in detail at the service that they provide. They could pilot the PSP in advance of tender. Any cost-saving mechanisms would therefore be identified, and any problems fixed, at an early stage, before the contract was permanently granted.
PSPs allow the public sector to draw on their expertise and resources in order to share in the design of a more effective public service. They help to provide a service that is good value for money—something that North Lanarkshire Council recognised was not being provided by the existing service.
The PSP is a people-centred service that meets local needs and achieves many added benefits. One such benefit is the additional 12 local jobs that the pilot has brought to North Lanarkshire, benefiting the community both socially and economically.
However, for the PSP programme to be rolled out across Scotland, some lessons need to be learned from the North Lanarkshire model. The
In March of this year, the Scottish Government issued "Better business—A strategy and action plan for social enterprise in Scotland". The strategy was aimed at providing a better support service for social enterprises in winning public service contests. PSPs represent an opportunity to meet that aim. I hope that the Government considers them a viable option, given the success of the pilot in North Lanarkshire.
Social enterprises do an awful lot of good work in our local communities and they need our support, but at root they need support from local authorities. I was disappointed to hear recently that some local authorities have begun to e-tender for services in a way that treats the clients who are served by social enterprises simply as job lots. Such retendering processes happen in a way that is the antithesis of all that the PSP pilot has shown to be good in the way that we can deal with matters on behalf of our local communities. It is vital that the minister addresses that issue by speaking to those local authorities that believe that to be a better way than the one that has been rolled out in North Lanarkshire. I believe that they will find that the North Lanarkshire model is the way forward and that alternatives will be to the detriment of the development of our social enterprises.
I thank Antonia Swinson and others from the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition who brought the issue to my attention and encouraged me to lodge the motion that we are debating tonight. I welcome comments from colleagues on the types of social enterprises that exist in their areas and I look forward to hearing examples of the good work in our local communities that is supported by social enterprises. I commend to colleagues "How social enterprises can deliver for Scotland", which is hot off the press today. I also commend that new agenda to local authorities, so that they can work better with those who can serve our communities because they understand and come from those communities.
I thank members for taking the time to join in this evening's debate, and I look forward to the minister's comments.
Alex Neil (Scottish National Party)
I congratulate Michael McMahon on obtaining this evening's debate.
Let me start by saying a word or two about North Lanarkshire. As the minister and many others will know, North Lanarkshire still has a number of areas of concentrated deprivation and poverty, with pockets of high long-term unemployment affecting a range of age groups. Every kind of model of delivery of economic growth and jobs in both the private and public sectors is, therefore, to be welcomed.
The innovative PSP programme is particularly welcome not only because it has created the 12 jobs to which Michael McMahon referred but because it has brought a number of other benefits to the local community. It has brought environmental benefits, because materials that are perfectly usable but which would previously have gone to landfill are now being recycled in the community. The initiative has also brought major social benefits, particularly to the 62 families who have been the recipients of the services of the PSP pilot.
Another tremendous benefit is the building of capacity in these fragile communities. Such capacity building—although very much an in phrase—is an important element. If communities are to be self-sustaining in the long term, we need to build indigenous capacity within them. The North Lanarkshire pilot ticks every box—the jobs box, the environment box, the social box and the capacity building box.
As well as complimenting those who have been involved in the design and delivery of the programme, we should mention the funding that the European Union has provided through Equal, which is a useful source of funding for such projects. A similar project that is running in Renfrewshire has also benefited from European Union funding.
The other big benefit is to the wider community. As the McClelland report on public procurement showed, there are many areas in local authorities, central Government and central Government agencies in which procurement can be improved, so that it has greater impact on the Scottish economy. A large council such as North Lanarkshire, with a significant budget, is a good place to start channelling at least a share of the procurement budget back into the local community, to provide economic and social benefit.
No matter how we look at the pilot, it is proving to be an excellent model for the delivery of economic and social benefit in communities such as North Lanarkshire. I strongly recommend it and support Michael McMahon's motion.
Helen Eadie (Labour)
It gives me great pleasure to support Michael McMahon and to congratulate him on the motion that he has brought for debate this evening. I draw members' attention to my declaration of interests: I am a member of the Co-operative Party and am currently chair of the Co-operative Party group in the Scottish Parliament.
The spirit of mutualism is strong and well in Scotland in the form of community enterprise. That is why I support whole-heartedly Michael McMahon's motion. Alex Neil mentioned the European Union, which has published a report on developing social enterprise as part of a Europe-funded project on funding and support mechanisms for social economy development in five different countries. The report deals with problems of definition of social enterprise and compared statutory and non-statutory recognition of the concept in the five countries that were studied: Italy, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and Ireland. Case studies from each country give a flavour of the types of activity that are undertaken in the sector. They range from regeneration projects in Sweden that aim to repopulate villages in declining rural areas, to Italian workers co-operatives that are integrating socially disadvantaged people, to environmental projects in the UK. It considers different approaches to social enterprise development and investment funds in those five countries and provides detailed figures.
The report also considers development strategies—proactive initiatives that aim to develop particular markets or which target specific sections of the community. The broad conclusions of the study discuss the problems of legal identity, the influences that affect approaches to development and the importance of giving adequate support to development infrastructure.
My intention in supporting examples of successful co-operative endeavour is to illustrate how people who believe in themselves can make a real difference locally. Prior to becoming a politician and deputy leader of Fife Regional Council, I served as the project manager in West Fife Enterprise Ltd and secured £1 million of European funding to help local people to help themselves and to create enterprise in an area that had been a rundown mining community. West Fife Enterprise has gone from strength to strength and continues today.
If we care to seek out the information, there are pages of examples of successful community enterprise. We owe it to everyone who wants to believe in themselves to give them legitimacy and total respect. We can do that only by ensuring that the spirit of mutualism is strong and well in
Housing is extremely important, given that the housing shortage probably represents the biggest problem that every MSP here has coming through their door. I was pleased to receive today a briefing from the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations which highlights the fact that it is very much behind social enterprises.
The Co-operative Housing Foundation in Egypt, which has been co-financed by the United States Agency for International Development and the Egyptian Government, runs probably the largest housing project in the third world. New houses have been built for 100,000 people in the industrialised area of Helwan, which is just north of Cairo, and slum areas have been upgraded, which has provided homes for 75,000 more people. If we could do even half of that in the next couple of years, we would do much for our communities. The community in Helwan is thriving and boasts its own brick factory, operational bank and national savings loan programmes.
I do not want to take up other members' time, so I will finish. I have absolute pleasure in supporting the motion.
Tavish Scott (Liberal Democrat)
Surely the best members' business debates are those in which we all learn something new. I thank Michael McMahon, Helen Eadie and Alex Neil for adding to my knowledge of matters that I did not know much about.
Social enterprises are called many things. In politics, we sometimes get bogged down by jargon. I caution my good friend Mr Neil for using expressions such as "capacity building". We all use such expressions, but I am not sure how many people in the real world know exactly what capacity building is. That said, social enterprises are important.
I agree with Michael McMahon's observations on the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition, Antonia Swinson's passionate advocacy of its role and what the sector can mean for the Scottish economy. I am sure that that is one of the minister's considerations. The sector is driven by men and women who have wider economic and social goals, who want more than just money, who are extraordinarily entrepreneurial, who devise new ways of doing things and who solve problems that traditional public and private sector solutions have simply not solved. Throughout Scotland, we have an enormous role in developing and changing our country. The Government can play a
I want to talk briefly about something in my part of Scotland that I have never thought of purely as a social enterprise—it is much more than that. I agree with what Alex Neil said about ticking all the different boxes. Community Opportunities for Participation in Enterprise—COPE—in Shetland is a social enterprise that supports adults with disabilities to fulfil their expressed need to participate in productive business. The words "expressed need" are important. The organisation is inspirational. One exercise that all MSPs take part in is make a difference day—there is interest in volunteering and supporting it.
For my sins, I worked in COPE's catering business, which provides sandwiches and other food to retail outlets around Lerwick, and its soap business, which now has an outlet in Kirkwall as well as an outlet in Lerwick. The organisation is fantastic. I do not necessarily think that I was particularly good at what it asked me to do, but I was inspired by the fact that those who lead the project have the time, patience and energy to give to people who are not as fortunate as we are, but who can be a productive part of an exciting project.
COPE is more than that. It does many things. Next year, it will open a spring water business in Shetland. It takes an environmental point of view—another of Alex Neil's tick boxes. It hopes to recycle all the plastic and glass bottles that are produced and to make a difference. It is one heck of an organisation. It was the Highlands and Islands community business of the year back in 2004 and it won an enterprising solutions social enterprise award in 2005. It is making a national—a Scottish and UK—difference and an international difference in its work with St George's Trust near Lublin in eastern Poland.
Later this month, the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee hopes to begin an inquiry into tourism and aspects of it with which Jim Mather is entirely familiar. The exciting thing is that we will have a chance to consider businesses such as those which we have been discussing and the role that they can play. It is not just the nuts and bolts that are important—such businesses make a contribution to exciting festivals throughout Scotland. I encourage the minister to take part in that inquiry, as I am sure he will, and to answer the detailed questions that colleagues such as Michael McMahon have asked.
Christina McKelvie (Scottish National Party)
I welcome the innovation that is represented by the public-social partnership in North Lanarkshire. The link between the local authority and the area's voluntary organisations is a good one and it is pleasing to see the PSP model beginning to come to fruition. We have been waiting for a long time for such a model in Scotland.
In my previous incarnation in social work services in Glasgow, I had plenty opportunities to see the work that is done along parallel lines by statutory bodies and the voluntary sector. Sometimes those organisations' efforts sat well alongside each other and the overall effect was enhanced, but at other times there was an overlap, which meant that resources and staff efforts were used that could have been used elsewhere. On occasion, there were clashes between the work that different organisations were trying to do.
Making sense of that complicated landscape is almost the holy grail. Getting the various bodies that are involved in delivering services to work alongside each other to deliver a more comprehensive and coherent service would be ideal. When I speak to people who work in the voluntary sector, it is obvious that communication channels must be improved so that all the people at the front end of service delivery know exactly what they and the people around them will be doing. I welcome any moves that might help those organisations to work together more effectively.
I note that the PSP model is based on the Italian co-planning idea. The Italians have been leading in this area for some time and are working to ensure that all levels of service delivery are part of the decision on output delivery. It might be better described as a co-decision rather than co-planning. It ensures a substantial buy-in to the overall package of services from all the service providers and helps to ensure that providers are offering and delivering closely aligned services rather than competing services. We need co-operation rather than contest and we need trust rather than suspicion. The PSP model could be an effective way of streamlining delivery if there is enough engagement on each side.
The big question, of course, is this: how much of our public services do we think should be delivered by voluntary organisations rather than the public sector? There is a serious issue around the provision of Scotland's public services and how much can be delivered by enabling another agency to deliver rather than by delivering. I note that the North Lanarkshire PSP has partners in social enterprise rather than in the traditional voluntary sector, thereby delivering some benefits back to the community by providing employment
I thank Michael McMahon for lodging the motion for debate and I am pleased to see Labour members supporting PSP, which certainly makes a change from public-private partnerships. I am only too happy to add my voice to that support. We should encourage community-level engagement in all aspects of civic society, and I particularly like the underpinning of the North Lanarkshire PSP. The provision of furniture packs to households is an excellent move. It is a matter of no small regret that we have deprivation in Scotland, which makes the provision of such furniture packs an invaluable addition to service provision and the benefits system, which has failed, and continues to fail, most vulnerable members of our society.
Long before he was making a mess of our elections, and even before Labour gained power in London in 1997, Douglas Alexander claimed that poverty was a scar across the face of our nation. It still is, which is a sad indictment of the poverty of ambition and ideas in Labour's London Government, and an illustration of the failure of Gordon Brown as Chancellor of the Exchequer and as Prime Minister to improve the lot of the poorest members of our society. Perhaps it is all part of the betrayal of the principles on which the Labour Party was founded.
We must all do whatever we can to alleviate poverty in Scotland, and that means acting to mitigate the effects of the London Government where we can. I therefore welcome the efforts that are being made by the North Lanarkshire PSP to help people who are in need. I have already described the furniture packs; the storage of furniture for those who have become homeless ensures that precious resources are not lost.
It would be naive of us to expect that we could force compliance on the enablers or the service providers, so we should be content to encourage them.
Margaret Mitchell (Conservative)
I congratulate Michael McMahon on bringing the debate to the Scottish Parliament this evening, not least because once I had negotiated and deciphered the component parts and all the jargon
When North Lanarkshire Council's PSP pilot was launched in Cumbernauld in June last year, its potential to create employment and training opportunities through winning public sector contracts was highlighted. As other members have pointed out, the idea is based on the Italian co-planning model, which has indeed proved very effective in helping social enterprises to win public sector contracts. The concept is being introduced into the United Kingdom in two pilot partnerships—one in North Lanarkshire, the other in Renfrewshire—under the European Equal initiative. North Lanarkshire Council's pilot, which is led by the Community Recycling Network for Scotland, focuses on services related to furniture storage, including emergency storage and furniture packs for homeless people.
Public-social partnerships aim to meet service users' needs by providing a people-centred service that achieves added community and/or environmental benefits. The North Lanarkshire pilot seeks to attain both kinds of benefit. Through co-planning, PSPs bring service users, local authorities, social enterprises and other agencies together to design the service, and the pilot allows time for the existing delivery service to be monitored closely before any relevant information or comments are incorporated into the tender. One key element is the provision of an intermediary who is brought in to manage the process up until the tender is lodged.
Ideally, the whole process begins at least a year—preferably 18 months—before the contract goes out to tender. At the beginning, the local authority provides information about the services that it requires and the social enterprises that it wants to involve.
Another key element of PSPs is the formation of a consortium. As Michael McMahon has pointed out, in the North Lanarkshire pilot, three social enterprise projects—RECAP, Beulah Scotland and St Patrick's Furniture Project—have come together to form the outreach consortium. It is important to note that, in forming that consortium, those enterprises, which, because of their size, would have been totally unable to bid in their own right, will now be able to lodge a tender.
As Alex Neil suggested in his reference to the McClelland report, one of the business community's main grievances is that small to medium-sized enterprises and social enterprises find it very difficult to tender for public contracts, not least because of the lengthy, bureaucratic, costly and time-consuming administrative process, which acts as a powerful disincentive. PSPs address that very problem and are very much to be welcomed as a mechanism for breaking down
Although the pilot is not yet complete, I very much look forward to hearing the minister's comments on this exciting new initiative.
James Kelly (Labour)
I very much welcome the opportunity to take part in this debate, which has been secured by Michael McMahon. It has certainly provided us with some important information about the PSP scheme. Indeed, I enjoyed Mr McMahon's speech and some of the speeches by other members and, like Tavish Scott, I learned a great deal from hearing about the new aspects of this scheme. It has quite clearly been positive for the North Lanarkshire community and economy and I hope that it will be sustainable in the area.
Like my colleague Helen Eadie, I am a Labour and Co-operative MSP. The local Co-operative groups in my area and the Co-operative retail group in general have done a great deal, not just in Scotland but throughout the UK. The Co-op has a proud tradition of piloting ideas of community and social responsibility that runs from New Lanark and the Fenwick weavers to the modern Co-op of today.
The Co-op retail group is an excellent example of good practice. It was the first retail organisation to push anti-apartheid ideas and it has been at the forefront of action on climate change and labelling. It picks up on such ideas because it is close to communities and to what people believe in, unlike some other profit-making organisations, which are close to shareholders and the bottom line and are sometimes not driven by the ideas of fairness and justice.
During the summer, I was interested to visit two Co-op stores in Cathkin and Halfway in my area, where I saw how the Co-op's social responsibility role has been developed. By working with the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, those stores have ensured that their workers are protected from unfortunate aspects of local crime and antisocial behaviour. This afternoon, we debated alcohol and it was clear that the Co-op shops that I visited took extremely seriously the control of sales of alcohol to underage people. Much of that thinking carries over into the community. The highly active Fairtrade group in my area receives strong support from the local Co-op.
Credit unions are another important social enterprise in my area—there are credit unions in both Cambuslang and Rutherglen. Credit unions play an important role because they are local and because they provide a service for socially excluded people whose alternative might be to use the services of loan sharks. The fact that they provide much-needed finance that is channelled back into the local economy is to be lauded.
In conclusion, I very much welcome the opportunity to take part in the debate. I support the comments that Michael McMahon and others have made on the PSP in North Lanarkshire and on the concept of social enterprise, which I believe boosts communities and the economy and keeps to the fore the ideals of fairness and justice.
Jim Mather (Scottish National Party)
I congratulate Michael McMahon on securing the debate and bringing to the Parliament's attention the achievements of the PSP social enterprise procurement initiative. I was extremely impressed by the way in which he described a pilot that is innovative, people centred and collaborative, which delivers choice, jobs and bolstered confidence, meets the expressed need that Tavish Scott mentioned, and provides inspiration and, as Helen Eadie said, gives people a chance to believe in themselves. I whole-heartedly support that.
The lessons on the definition of a shared problem and an agreed solution that Michael McMahon identified were also important. Many other spheres of endeavour in Scotland can learn from such practice, which I hope to address in my speech along with the extension of collaboration and co-operation.
The Scottish Government recognises the valuable role that the third sector—social enterprises and voluntary organisations—play in delivering public services. Like Michael McMahon, we see that happening regularly in our constituencies. I am particularly pleased that the Europe-funded Equal programme has bolstered what has been achieved.
Much of the quality that the third sector brings to the delivery of services results from its proven ability to innovate and to make each pound go a long way, and from the experience and resourcefulness that the people behind it bring when they apply their knowledge of working with and for particular client groups.
The PSP model that we are considering is a great way of involving the third sector in the design and delivery of services. As we heard, that leads to the delivery of higher-quality services to the people who need them. Furthermore, through the
The new Scottish Government is committed to five strategic priorities. We want to share with the third sector the job of achieving those priorities and adhering to the values that they represent. It seems that PSPs such as the North Lanarkshire example contribute to all five strategic priorities, by helping to achieve a wealthier and fairer Scotland, a healthier Scotland, a safer and stronger Scotland, a smarter Scotland and a greener Scotland.
The results of the North Lanarkshire pilot meet all five of our strategic aims for Scotland, by providing services that meet real need. The service provides emergency furniture packs to vulnerable individuals and families who are moving from homelessness. Keeping people housed has undoubted health benefits, which contributes to a healthier Scotland. The storage of items when an individual or family becomes temporarily homeless, until they are rehoused, contributes to a safer Scotland. The provision of furniture packs for people who cannot afford to buy furniture contributes to a fairer Scotland. The provision of training placements for people who are disadvantaged in the labour market contributes to a smarter Scotland. The removal of unwanted furniture from landfill contributes to a greener Scotland, and the creation of jobs and generation of income contribute to a wealthier and fairer Scotland.
Therefore, we have an interest in helping to develop social enterprises as businesses, so that they can realise their potential as deliverers of services as well as economic drivers who generate income and provide jobs. To that end, we are planning a session with the third sector—as we have done with other industry sectors—and communities in my constituency, Argyll and Bute, at which we will bring together stakeholders and others to consider how we can map out a new or enhanced role for volunteers and social enterprises in the achievement of our core priorities. Often when we run such sessions we identify missing stakeholders, who should have been involved in the session, so we find a way of taking the message to those people over the piece.
The pilot's achievements were celebrated in August at an event at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow. Linked to that event was the launch of the refreshed version of
We also want to build on the PSP pilot with our partners in the European Equal programme. We will shortly publish a guide to forming consortia—it will be for social enterprises—that will draw on the experience of the pilot. Consortia are the ideal vehicle for delivering services and they can be contagious, in that they can bring other people into the process.
In future, we intend to build on the existing social enterprise strategy. We will continue to seek ways to open up markets for social enterprises. The public sector is an important market for social enterprises, although it is not the only one. We will continue to work with social enterprises to ensure that they are better placed to win more business and contracts.
We will also work with public sector purchasers. We want purchasing to be more considered, more inclusive and more aware of local economic and social benefits. We want more of the joined-up thinking in purchasing that we have witnessed in North Lanarkshire, whereby work across the local authority enabled the purchase of a service that diverted waste from landfill, provided employment opportunities for the long-term unemployed and provided furniture for people who needed it.
We have heard that social enterprises can do much through the new PSP model. I am impressed by the almost instinctive ability of those who are involved in the pilot to deliver on our strategic objectives for Scotland. Through the new three-year social enterprise action plan, we will create an environment in which social entrepreneurs and their enterprises will thrive. We will also encourage collaborative working between the public and social sectors.
In bringing the debate to the chamber, Michael McMahon has identified the contribution that public social partnerships and social enterprise can make not only to a wealthier and fairer Scotland, but to our other strategic priorities for the country. As such, I commend it, and I commend him.
Meeting closed at 17:56.