A Better Return

Public services are under pressure to cut costs, but efficiency targets are compromising the quality of service provided. nef suggests new and better ways to deliver value for money via SROI.

January 22, 2009 // Written by:

Josh Ryan-Collins, Associate Director, Economy and Finance

With the public sector facing twin pressures of rising needs and increasingly constrained resources, achieving the best return for communities, the environment, and society every time public money is spent is essential.

A Better Return, which was commissioned by the Cabinet Office and authored by nef, argues that the persistence of a narrow focus on unit costs in public services commissioning is missing opportunities to maximise public benefit. Moreover, the report demonstrates that such an approach to commissioning is inconsistent with HM Treasury's guidance on value for money. The HM Treasury guidance stipulates that such assessments should be based on not just costs, but also a consideration of the full range of social, economic and environmental costs and benefits and on the suitability of the services to the people that use them.

To enable effective commissioning that takes into consideration full value to be routine, the report makes a series of recommendations for building an enabling institutional framework. These include: Introducing frameworks, such as Social Return on Investment (SROI), that are capable of measuring what matters; Incentivising intelligent commissioning rather than narrow cost-cutting; Making commissioning for outcomes the norm.


Public Service Reform, Social Return on Investment

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