Public prefers social enterprises to deliver public services


Nine out of ten people would prefer public services were outsourced to social enterprises over the private sector, research shows today.

Polling by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) and consultancy group E3M revealed the changing public perception of the roles of private sector businesses and social enterprises in the delivery of public services.

Respondents considered social enterprises to be more suitable public service providers on the grounds of perceived value for money, expertise, trust and lower levels of risk.

Social enterprises were judged to be suitable providers for all public services, but in particular youth services, sport and leisure, and environment and park services.

Rob Whiteman, Chief Executive, CIPFA

"The high levels of public trust in social enterprises revealed in this study demonstrates the viability of social enterprise as an option for delivering public services.

"We would encourage local authorities to look beyond conventional private sector partnerships, and explore how social enterprises in their areas could support greater citizen engagement with services and investments in place."

The research also captured the views of the finance professionals who are charged with achieving best value for public money. Their responses indicate that the public services most likely to be outsourced were sport, leisure, libraries, events and health and social care.

Eighty four percent of public finance professionals said social enterprises have been very or quite successful in delivering these services. Six in ten said they thought social enterprises would play a greater role in public service provision in future.

One respondent told the survey: "It makes sense for councils to consider new ways of delivering services and social enterprises seem to be a sustainable way of doing this."

Round table discussions held on the back of the findings revealed a need for flexibility in how services are delivered and the perceived importance of social value.

Jonathan Bland, Managing Director, Social Business International and Coordinator of E3M

"Local authorities need to take this research seriously. The mood has changed: the public wants a different model of outsourcing that they trust, one which uses profits to benefit society rather than building shareholder value."

The YouGov survey of 2,000 adults showed nearly half of respondents agreed with the statement that public bodies should not outsource any services at all. 


Notes to Editors:

  • The full report 'A shifting landscape: attitudes to social enterprise service delivery', with case studies, can be downloaded here.
  • Research was conducted by YouGov to test national public opinion in July 2019. The research highlighted public concern around the role of outsourcing in public service delivery, which may be linked to recent high profile examples of failure.
  • CIPFA ran a parallel survey of members, which mirrored the findings of the YouGov poll, which received 144 responses.
  • Find out more about E3M.

CIPFA, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, is the professional body for people in public finance. CIPFA shows the way in public finance globally, standing up for sound public financial management and good governance around the world as the leading commentator on managing and accounting for public money.

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