New VCSE Contract Readiness Programme launches in England today

4 Apr 2023

Government funded programme could be a turning point for charities and social enterprises that seize the opportunity.

I have seen our sector deal with various challenges over the last 20 years I’ve been Chief Exec of SSE but amongst this there has been some good news too. 

A highly significant development has been the 2012 Social Value Act which mandated public sector commissioners to consider the additional social, economic and environmental benefits suppliers deliver through the performance of a contract. This has been followed by the 2020 Social Value Model which requires central government commissioners to place a 10% minimum weighting to social value when evaluating tenders. 
These developments could help our sector earn a greater proportion of the £290 billion a year the UK Government spends on goods and services and help organisations establish a more stable future.  

 For charities and social enterprises who are looking at their future revenue flows and trying to secure a more resilient way forward, is now the time to turn to public sector contracts? I would suggest that the answer to this question should be a resounding “Yes!”  

 Not only are voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations (VCSEs) uniquely placed to offer solutions to societal problems that are authentic, fit for purpose and close to the communities they seek to serve – but they also now gain recognition for the social impact of their activities when their tenders are being scored.  


What’s on offer? 

To support the VCSE sector to take advantage of the opportunities the Social Value Model brings, the government has awarded a grant to the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE), Social Enterprise UK (SEUK) and Voice4Change England (V4CE) to deliver a comprehensive support offer for charities and social enterprises in England. VCSEs can gain the skills required to move into the world of securing public sector contracts – and thus build the diversity of supply and the quality of public provision.  

Today this support becomes available to VCSEs across England – fully funded by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. It offers three course levels and a new centre for online resources. 

Government Contracts Revealed 

90 minute webinars to build awareness of the opportunities. 

 Government Contract Ready 

One day workshops for those with turnover £100k+ to get ready to tender.  

 Government Contract Wins 

Four half days over six months, for those more confident in the space with turnover £250k+ who are looking to ramp up their public sector provision. 

 Public Services Hub 

An online platform developed by SEUK with resources on public procurement for VCSEs, and guidance for commissioners on partnering with VCSE service providers. 

 “The expertise of VCSEs means they are often ideally placed to help create compassionate, responsive and efficient public services. 

The VCSE Contract Readiness Programme will help to address some of the barriers that have prevented VCSEs entering the public sector market. It will improve the skills and knowledge of VCSEs on how to bid for contracts and provide them greater opportunity to enter public sector supply chains. This in turn gives the Government the opportunity of having a diversity of suppliers in its procurement chains.”

Claire Dove CBE, VCSE Crown Representative


To be significant to the sector this programme must deliver real value to the organisations taking part. In designing this offer we have synthesised the most critical know-how to ensure that time-poor VCSE employees can get the information they need in a timely and efficient manner. The programme is hosted by the foremost voice in the VCSE winning public sector contracts space, Craig Dearden-Phillips.  


“This is a brilliant and exciting breakthrough programme for any charity or social enterprise that wants to break into public sector contracting.  We dispel the myths, hear from commissioners and successful bidders, and help you to maximise your chances of success in this growing and important space for charities and social enterprises.”   

Craig Dearden-Phillips, course facilitator. 


The rising demand for VCSE services adds more strain to stretched resources. Coupled with a challenging funding landscape, this can present a bleak picture to many VCSE leaders. Can public sector procurement delivered in line with the Social Value Model offer a ray of light in an incredibly challenging context? I truly believe that this could prove to be a turning point for those charities and social enterprises ready to seize the opportunity.   

I truly believe that this could prove to be a turning point for those charities and social enterprises ready to seize the opportunity.

Written by Ali Wilson, CEO, the School for Social Entrepreneurs

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