Does our councils promote social value when funding public services via charities?

This is i portant be ause, more and more, councils are sub-contracting their responsibilities for health and social care to charities.

Small charities that deliver public services have a problem.

The government grants that once helped to fund this work are drying up fast – their total value halved in the decade between 2004 and 2014, according to the NCVO, and has continued to drop ever since. This leaves organisations dependent on income from local council contracts, where the complex tendering process is stacked against smaller providers. At risk of being squeezed out completely, they face what the Lloyds Bank Foundation earlier this year called a “broken commissioning landscape”.

The government knows this is a problem. The House of Lords select committee on charities expressed concerns back in 2016, recommending that the government takes steps to promote commissioning based on impact and social value rather than simply on the lowest cost.

The Social Value Act, introduced in 2012, is one of very few ways in which central government can influence who is commissioned to deliver local services. It requires councils to think about the social, economic and environmental benefits of their decisions when they commission contracts above a certain value (around £170,000).

This means officials are encouraged to do more than simply favour the lowest bidders; they are invited to consider what else a provider could contribute to the area. One organisation might be committed to employing local people, for example. Another might offer to work with small community groups, or bring together existing networks of GPs, schools and others to coordinate services more effectively. The aim is to level the playing field, and enable non-profit providers – such as charities, social enterprises and community businesses – to compete with big private companies.

The government promised a review of the act back in February, something tantamount to an acknowledgement that it is not having the desired impact. Those plans have since been derailed by the snap election and the review is now promised “in due course”.

With the review still pending, we at Power to Change spoke to (pdf) community businesses across England, to find out what changes could be made to improve the situation.

The organisations we spoke to were positive about the aims of the act, and confessed that the commissioning landscape would be “much bleaker” without it. Some councils even welcomed the fact that the act gave them, as they saw it, “permission to explicitly consider social value”.

But many community businesses dismissed the act as “tokenistic”, complaining that it made little practical difference to how councils commissioned or from whom. We found limited evidence that the act actually affected their decisions about whether to tender for contracts: organisations who wanted to work with their council said they would have gone ahead regardless.

If the government wants to improve the impact of the act, our research has some simple recommendations.

Lower the financial threshold

Fairer UK charity contracts will demand long-term government support
The act only applies to local authority contracts worth more than £170,000. Very few community businesses operate at that kind of scale, particularly those committed to working only in their local area. A lower threshold would bring more small organisations into play, either as providers or, more likely, as partners.

Apply it to goods and works, not just services

The principles behind the act are very popular with government, councils and community business alike, so extending it to contracts for goods and works would be another way to introduce social value into commissioning. In his report into the act in 2015, for example, Lord Young celebrated parliament’s decision to commission bottled water for two years from a social enterprise whose profits were shared with the charity Water Aid. There is no reason this sort of innovation shouldn’t be more widespread.

Offer more support for potential providers

Providing more support and guidance, especially some highlighting successful practice, could boost take-up of the act. For commissioners, this could mean giving examples of where they have made savings or improved outcomes through commissioning with social value in mind. For small voluntary or community-led organisations, this could be examples of similar organisations that successfully engaged with the process.

Access to data on the progress and effects of the act is also limited. We recommend the introduction of an open-source, central dataset on the use of the act across local authorities in England, including monitoring data on social value outcomes.

Promote the act more

Our research found an alarming number of social enterprises and community businesses either weren’t sure how the act worked or hadn’t heard of it. The government should give the act greater publicity, targeting community groups who might want to take up the opportunity it offers. For the same reason, the guidance surrounding the act needs to be much clearer and more accessible.

Explain how social value is measured

It can be fiendishly difficult to measure social value, but it can be done – and local groups told us that councils could do more to explain how they will be assessed. This could start with commissioners consulting interested parties locally on what sort of measurements they will be using and how they will be collected, not least so that local groups can decide whether or not to apply for a contract in the first place.

Encourage councils to take risks

New charities minister, but government isn’t interested | Asheem Singh
Local authorities like to praise the not-for-profit sector for bringing more innovation and greater flexibility to social problems. But this does not always extend to commissioning decisions, which can favour large, well-known private firms over smaller groups. This may be understandable, but councils will need to overcome this risk-aversion in the future.

Make the act part of wider social change

The act requires councils only to consider social value in commissioning. But not every local authority limits itself to this: Oxfordshire county council and Somerset district council were celebrated last year by Social Enterprise UK for incorporating the act into a wider agenda for social change. This meant using the act to focus on a whole strategy to strengthen the local area, something commissioners all over the country could learn from.

Russell Hargrave works for Power to Change”

Second home owners – very wealthy

For graphs, see original article

“Homes sweet homes – the rise of multiple property ownership in Britain

When is a house not a home?

Increasingly often, it turns out. Be it a holiday cottage for weekend getaways, a pied-à-terre in the city, a flat rented out for a bit of extra income, or an empty shell of bricks and mortar working harder for your savings than an ISA possibly could – multiple property ownership is rising. An important and symbolic feature of the shifting patterns of wealth accumulation in 21st Century Britain, here we explore how multiple property ownership is changing, who owns the second homes, and what the policy implications of these trends are.

The rise of the second home owners

The 21st Century rise in multiple property ownership is set against a backdrop of the overall decline in home ownership over the past 15 years.

While the share of British adults in families with any property wealth fell 8 per cent in between 2000-02 and 2012-14, the share with multiple property wealth increased by nearly one-third (30 per cent). In 2012-14 four-in-ten adults had no wealth in property at all, but one-in-ten had wealth in multiple properties (5.2 million adults, up 1.6 million since the turn of the century). These twin trends – fewer people with any properties and more with many – underpin the growing concentration of housing assets that is fuelling the recent increase in overall wealth inequality.

Disregarding mortgage debt (because of difficulties in identifying which properties mortgages are secured against), the assets held in second or additional properties had a gross value of £760 billion in 2012-14 (adjusted to 2017 prices) – that’s 15% of the £5.2 trillion held in gross property wealth overall. This equates to an average of £150,000 per adult with multiple sources of property wealth, a 20 per cent increase since 2000-02. With average net total wealth just over £200,000 in 2012-14, and typical (median) wealth just £84,000, owning multiple properties clearly represents a huge wealth boost.

Not only can multiple property ownership boost wealth – which is important for living standards over lifetimes and particularly in retirement – it also has the potential to boost incomes in the here-and-now, because these properties can be rented out. Consistent with recent growth in the private rented sector (which is provided by a mix of commercial institutions and private landlords), the proportion of adults in the UK receiving income from other property as landlords doubled between 1998-99–2000-01 and 2013-14–2015-16 – from 1.7 per cent to 3.4 per cent. Previous research suggests that the typical annual rental income among this group was around £6,000 in 2008-10 – more than a quarter of typical salaries at the time – underscoring the difference such a source of income can make to living standards.

Who owns multiple properties?

So multiple property ownership remains a minority sport, but one growing in popularity and with the potential to significantly boost wealth and income. It’s therefore right to ask who does it. Three key features stand out:

1. They are mainly baby boomers and members of generation X
Half (52%) of all the assets held in additional properties is held by the baby boomers, born 1946-65, and a further quarter (25 per cent) by generation X, born 1966-80. But of course we might expect this – wealth varies hugely over the life-cycle and peaks around retirement age. And as the name suggests, the thing about the boomers is that there are lots of them.

The chart below overcomes these challenges by showing average gross additional property wealth across all adults in successive birth cohorts and at different ages. What’s striking is the doubling of additional property assets for those born in the 1940s compared to the cohorts before them when they were the same age – it seems the oldest in society today never really got into the second homes game in a big way. All generation X and baby boomer cohorts then improve on their predecessors at the same age. However, the older millennials – those born in the 1980s – are the first cohort on record to under-shoot predecessors on additional property asset – they have less than half the amount that those born in the 1970s had at age 26.

The inescapable conclusion is that those in prime age and early retirement today have so far been the big winners from the rise in second home-owning.

2. They are overwhelmingly rich and wealthy

Owning additional property is sometimes depicted as a common way for typical workers to shore up savings or for ordinary folk to boost their pension with rental income. But situating multiple property owners and private landlords within the wealth and income spectrums makes them seem far from ordinary. 88 per cent of additional property owners are in the top half of the wealth distribution, and 79 per cent of adults with rental income from other property are in the top half of the income distribution. Around one third of each are in the top decile of their respective distributions.

Of course, you could argue that these comparisons to all other adults are a bit unfair. For example, we know that additional property assets are concentrated among the baby boomers who are currently at peak wealth-holding age. By the same token, the common argument that rent from other property is a way of boosting pension incomes means we might expect it to only really be a relevant consideration in retirement, when incomes are now slightly higher and people are less likely to be poor.

However, the additional property owners and landlords look particularly well off even within these groups. For example, over four-fifths (82 per cent) of baby boomer second home owners are in the wealthiest half of their generation. And more than four-fifths (81 per cent) of pensioner landlords are in the top half of the pensioner income distribution. The clear message is that both across society as a whole and among their peers, those drawing on wealth or income from additional properties are disproportionately rich and wealthy.

3. They are concentrated in the South of England

We don’t know where the additional properties are, but analysis of where those receiving rental income from them are based shows a particularly high prevalence in the regions that make up the south of England, as the chart below shows. Nearly six-in-ten landlords (59 per cent of the total) are found in the four regions where it is most common: the South West, South East, East of England and London. Unsurprisingly, these are the areas where incomes and average wealth are highest (and in the case of the South West in particular, a higher concentration of older adults will also contribute to this pattern).

A case for action?

In sum, holding assets in more than one property has grown in recent decades, and can be a huge boon to both wealth and incomes. The second home owners are mainly adults in prime age or early retirement, are rich and wealthy even among their peers, and are most likely to be living in the south of England. Of course there are individual exceptions, but stepping back to the big picture: if you were painting an image of society’s affluent, this would be it.

Given that younger generations are failing to accumulate wealth at anything like the rate of their predecessors, and that we have a housing crisis that manifests itself in concerns about security and quality for those renting from private landlords, this state of play seems far from optimal. And to be fair, this is one aspect of the shifting patterns of wealth accumulation in 21st Century Britain that policy makers have woken up to in recent years, with attempts at action. Stamp duty surcharges on second homes were introduced last year, and reduced mortgage tax relief for those engaged in buy-to-let came in this April.

These steps have pros and cons, but there’s a case for thinking even more broadly – from implementing the commitment to tackle empty homes in the recent housing white paper, to greater regulation of private landlords and increased security of tenure to shore up tenants’ position. And from a taxation perspective, the reality of a larger second home owning group, made up largely of older, very affluent people cannot be ignored as we wrestle with the public finance pressures of an ageing society. These are options and challenges our Intergenerational Commission will continue to explore, because from the perspective of many of Britain’s real ordinary folk who still desire to own their home but find doing so increasingly out of reach, one house would be enough.”

Cameron’s former council taken to court over austerity cuts

“There were chaotic scenes on Thursday 17 August as Oxfordshire County Council, the borough in which David Cameron’s former constituency sits, appeared in a central London court. It was there to defend itself in a case which is a legal first. And the case the Tory-run authority had to answer? That its austerity-driven cuts to vital services may have broken the law.

A legal first

The Court of Appeal was hearing the case of Luke Davey. In November, a judge granted the 40-year-old from Oxfordshire a judicial review against the council, following a 42% cut to the amount he received to pay for his care and support. This is because Davey has quadriplegic cerebral palsy, is registered blind, and requires assistance with all of his intimate personal care needs.

But Davey’s case is a legal first, because his lawyers are using the Care Act 2014 to argue that the council has broken the law. Specifically, that Oxfordshire County Council has breached its obligations under the “wellbeing” principle of the act.

Disabled people’s organisation Inclusion London and campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) are supporting Davey’s case. The groups had organised representatives to support Davey before and during the hearing. And in another legal first, Inclusion London was granted an intervention in the case by the judge: the first time an organisation led by disabled people has been given this privilege.

But things didn’t go smoothly for the campaigners.

At first, they gathered outside the main entrance to the courts, raising awareness of both the case and the broader issues facing sick and disabled people in society.

One campaigner’s banner referenced an UN report which accused successive Conservative-led governments of committing “grave” and “systematic” violations of disabled people’s human rights.

And campaigners like DPAC Steer Group member Nicola Jeffery were also highlighting the closure of the Independent Living Fund (ILF), which had previously supported disabled people to access their communities and maintain their day-to-day lives. But the Conservative government abolished the ILF in 2015.

But there were angry scenes when disabled campaigners, their solicitors and the media tried to enter the court building. Security at first told them they could not go in, as there were “not enough staff on duty” to cope, and they were not willing to open the disabled entrance.

After the intervention of a reporter and several wheelchair users, the court’s security opened up the supposedly ‘accessible’ entrance to the court. But the entrance was barely accessible, and one disabled campaigner was nearly knocked to the ground by a passing cyclist.

Setting a precedent?

Davey’s case, if successful, could set a precedent, as it’s the first time the Care Act 2014 has been cited in law. The council argues that there were two underlying reasons given for its decision to reduce Davey’s personal budget. Specifically, that:

He could spend more time alone without the benefit of a Personal Assistant being present.
Davey could and should reduce the amount which he pays to his Personal Assistants.
But his solicitors say that, by cutting his support from £1,651 a week in 2015 to £950 a week now, Oxfordshire County Council has breached Davey’s rights under the wellbeing principle of the act. Specifically, that it will cause/pose:

Additional and excessive anxiety to Davey, from having to spend unwanted time alone.

The risk of Davey losing his established care team of 18 years.

The wellbeing principle of the Care Act says that a council has a legal duty to “promote” a person’s wellbeing. Specifically:

Personal dignity.
Physical and mental health and emotional well-being.
Protection from abuse and neglect.
Control by the individual over day-to-day life.
Participation in work, education, training or recreation.
Social and economic well-being.
Domestic, family and personal relationships.
Suitability of living accommodation.
The individual’s contribution to society. …”

Who cares about the poor? Not this government – £10 for nit treatment or eat, that’s the choice for some

” … Little by little services vanish. Prof Azeem Majeed, head of primary care and public health at Imperial College and a Lambeth GP, has just blown the whistle in the British Medical Journal on the latest withdrawal of a service: many clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), including his own, are banning GPs from prescribing anything that can be bought over the counter. Bristol, Lincolnshire, Dudley, Telford and Essex are among many others issuing the same edict.

At first glance it makes sense not to prescribe what most people can get for themselves, until you consider poorer patients who can’t afford the 22 drugs now banned for prescribing. Majeed says “Low-income families often can’t afford ibuprofen, or gluten-free products for coeliac disease sufferers. A single mother on low pay with two children can’t afford the £10 it would cost for nit treatment.”

Pain relief will be denied for those suffering headache, backache, toothache, migraine, fever or those needing antihistamines for hayfever, treatments for thrush or eye infections. With food banks handing out over a million emergency food kits and Unicef reporting that 10% of UK children suffer “severe food insecurity”, basic but essential over-the-counter medicines are beyond the budgets of households who struggle to provide meals. …”

Citizens could lose right to sue Government post-Brexit; government says tradition will protect us

“The Brexit Bill includes a provision that could strip UK citizens of the right to sue the government, campaigners have pointed out.

Currently, the UK is subject to rulings of the European Court of Justice, including the so-called Francovich rule, which has been part of EU law since 1991. It allows EU citizens the right to sue their respective governments for failing to implement EU law such as environmental law, workers rights and business regulation.

However The European Union Withdrawal Bill states: “There is no right in domestic law on or after exit day to damages in accordance with the rule in Francovich”.

This has sparked concern that this weakens the rights of citizens to seek redress if the government were to fail to uphold certain laws.

Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman Tom Brake, said: “This is a shameless attempt to take away people’s rights through the backdoor.
“Citizens must be able to hold the government to account when it breaks the rules.”

Martha Spurrier, director of the civil liberties group, Liberty, told The Times: “This chilling clause, buried deep in the Bill’s small print, would quietly take away one of the British people’s most vital tools for defending their rights,

“Putting the government above the law renders our legal protections meaningless. It exposes a clear agenda to water down our rights after Brexit.”

However, the government said the UK has a “longstanding tradition” of ensuring public rights and liberties are protected.

A government spokesman said: “The people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU and that is exactly what we are doing. The right to Francovich damages is linked to EU membership – the government therefore considers that this will no longer be relevant after we leave.

“After exit, under UK law it will still be possible for individuals to receive damages or compensation for any losses caused by breach of the law.”

“Rough sleeping in Britain is forecast to rise by 76% in the next decade unless the government takes urgent action, homelessness charity Crisis has stated.

The charity today published its analysis of homelessness in all its guises in England, Scotland and Wales, prompting housing groups to warn the problem is likely to get worse unless more housing becomes available and there are changes to welfare.

According to Crisis, in 2016:

9,100 people were sleeping rough
68,300 households were sofa surfing
37,200 households were living in hostels
19,300 households were living in unsuitable temporary accommodation
12,100 households living in squats
8,900 households sleeping in tents, cars or on public transport
5,000 households in women’s refuges or winter night shelters.

The report warns that, if current policies continue unchanged, the most acute forms of homelessness are likely to keep rising, with overall numbers estimated to increase by 26.5% and households in unsuitable temporary accommodation set to rise by 93%.”

“Secret NHS land sales” by Tory Government

“A secret “fire sale” of hospital land – including dozens of properties still being used for medical care – is planned to bail out the cash-strapped NHS, new documents show.

The Department of Health has quietly doubled the amount of land it intends to dispose of, triggering accusations of desperate measures to plug a big hole in NHS finances.

Details of more than half of the 1,300 hectares now up for sale have been kept under wraps because of “sensitivity” – raising suspicions that many other sites also have clinical uses.

Today’s analysis, carried out for Labour by the House of Commons Library, went through Department of Health data of land that NHS organisations “have deemed surplus” and eligible for sale.

Of the 543 plots, totaling 1,332 hectares – worth many hundreds of millions of pounds – 117 are currently being used for clinical or medical purposes, Labour said.

However, data on 734 of those hectares, spread over 63 sites, has been held back due to “issues of sensitivity”, the analysis found.

Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, claimed a long-running failure to fund the NHS properly had forced “a blanket sell-off of sites which are currently being used for patient care”.

“Crumbling hospitals are in desperate need of investment for repair and renewal,” Mr Ashworth said.

“But the Government must provide that investment, not strip hospitals of their assets and force them into a fire sale.

“There has been a huge rise in the amount of NHS land available for sale this year, but for more than half of it the Government are keeping the details secret and refusing to fully answer reasonable questions.

“It all adds to the suspicion that ministers are drawing up secret plans for a fire sale of valuable NHS assets to plug the black hole in their finances.”

The criticism comes as Labour launches a major assault on the Prime Minister’s management of the NHS, warning her tenure has seen rising waiting times, cancelled operations and a growing crisis in social care.

However, the Department of Health hit back, insisting only truly unwanted land would be sold – with the cash raised ring-fenced to improve NHS services.

“There will be no ‘fire sale’ of NHS assets, but we continue with our ongoing efforts to help hospitals dispose of land they do not need,” a spokesman said.

“This will provide vital funds for the NHS to spend on patient care and free-up space for much needed homes.”

Ms May’s adoption of the Naylor report triggered criticism during the campaign. Dr Kailash Chand, the former deputy chairman of the British Medical Association, called it “an outline to sell off the NHS”.

The NHS Confederation then urged the Government to step back, calling for the land to be set aside for homes for NHS staff unable to buy on the open market, because of the housing crisis.

It linked the housing shortage to rising NHS vacancies, with 15 per cent of registered nursing jobs unfilled and 12 per cent of positions at GP practices vacant.

The most valuable site on today’s surplus list is the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, in Stanmore, London, which has a market value of £38.75m.

Other highly-priced locations include the Ida Darwin Hospital, in Cambridge (£20m), two sites at Broadmoor Hospital, in Berkshire (£16.75m and £11m), the Royal National Hospital for Rheumatic Diseases, in Bath (£10m) and Papworth Hospital, in Cambridgeshire (also £10m).

Meanwhile, Jeremy Corbyn, on a visit to Cornwall, will focus on the condition of the NHS to mark the release of performance data up to the point of the Prime Minister’s first anniversary in No 10.

He will say that, after 11 months, nearly 2.4 million people had waited more than four hours for treatment in casualty departments – or one in 10 patients.

Suspected stroke sufferers faced only a 50-50 chance of getting to a hospital within one hour and about 270,000 people had been added to NHS waiting lists.”