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SSE Statement on the EC Guide/Commission Notice “Buying Social – a guide to taking account of social considerations in public procurement (2nd edition)”

Brussels, 6th December 2021

Public procurement and the relevant EU-level legislation in place – as part of a sustainable and supportive legal, regulatory, financial, and quality EU-level framework for social services – is of high relevance for our members; and this for more than a decade already. In the last 10 to 15 years, SSE has regularly and intensively worked on this topic with the aim to influence Directive 2014/24/EU and the EC Guidance on Socially Responsible Public Procurement (SRPP). SSE contributed to the EC Consultation on the scope and structure of a EC Guide on Socially Responsible Public Procurement (February 2018). Based on input from its members, in 2019 we compiled examples for the use of public procurement. SSE had also issued an assessment of the 2014 Procurement Directive and prior to this had made proposals to the European institutions on the scope of the directive being revised and relevant wording (2012). It is also expected that the Social Economy Action Plan (expected on 8 December 2021) will also deal with the use of SRPP

Public procurement is a complex process which starts well before publishing a contract notice as first needs are to be assessed. It does not end with a contract award notice but continues with the contract performance and its evaluation.

  • Where public procurement is chosen by a public authority and/or has to be used in order to organise and finance the delivery of social services, according to national legislation or regulation in place in an EU Member State, SSE strongly promotes socially responsible public procurement (SRPP).

  • This being said, SSE does not believe that public procurement is often the right funding mechanism through which to finance social service provision and promotes the use of alternative models which focus more on partnerships and less on buyer-supplier logics.

In a public procurement context, SRPP should generally be considered as “best practice”. Why? Because for SSE best value in public contracting when using public procurement does not mean lowest price. It means the delivery of the best service quality (in line with state-of-the-art methodologies, equipment, and technology, too), a focus on the needs and capacities of the users and supportive rules and frameworks for employment, decent pay and training of an adequate number of well-qualified staff.

Social Services Europe intends to use this statement for a continued exchange on how and where to best promote socially responsible public procurement (SRPP) and on the best use of the 2021 EC Guide “Buying Social” in the field of social services, with the European Commission, other relevant EU institutions, but also other stakeholders.

We also plan to engage in discussions with the European Commission and other stakeholders, such as national governments, based on reporting activities which will investigate the transposition of Directive 2014/24/EU in national law and its implementation in all 27 EU MS (or of specific aspects thereof, such as the review of the economic effects of the internal market resulting from the applications of the thresholds as required by article 92) foreseen by the Commission Services in 2022.

For SSE it is crucial to identify and promote alternative models to public procurement (complying with general principles of EU law, such as transparency or non-discrimination/equal treatment), to collect evidence on their impact on key features of social service provision such as service quality, affordability, accessibility, effectiveness, user involvement and employment conditions (from our members and research) and to get full recognition for their use (including in official EC documents).

  • For access to the full statement and SSE's assessment of positive and helpful points, but also of problematic or lacking points please click here.​

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