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NCVO and Serco launch Code of Practice to raise standards

Published: 11 Apr 2013

A new Code of Practice published today by NCVO aims to improve the relationships between prime and subcontractors in public services.

Developed jointly by NCVO and Serco, the Code of Practice (attached) is intended to help prime and subcontractors, whether in the private or voluntary sectors, work better together and minimise the problems encountered by some subcontractors.

The Code provides advice on a range of issues in the relationships between prime and subcontractors, including:

- Setting reasonable expectations

- Having strong mechanisms for open dialogue between contractors

- Developing financially sustainable models

The Code goes on to warn against primes paying lip service to VCS organisations in order to boost their chances of winning public sector contracts, and says that regular discussions should take place between prime and subcontractors if, for example, referral numbers are lower than expected. It also advises that delivery models should recognise and mitigate the risk of primes 'cherry picking' clients, and that primes should ensure subcontractors are not exposed to disproportionate financial risk.

Serco has pledged to follow the guidance when it subcontracts within its public service contracts, and will also encourage other outsourcing companies to sign up to the document.

Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of NCVO, said:  'There has been a major growth in subcontracting, but NCVO's members have had very mixed experiences of it. This joint guidance is part of our attempts to raise standards in subcontracting.

'We are certainly not saying subcontracting is always the right way to deliver public services. But where services are delivered in this way, we want to make sure that they are delivered well and that subcontractors are treated fairly.

'We have deliberately made the principles in this guidance applicable to prime-sub relationships within any sector.

'I hope everyone involved in subcontracting in public services will find this guidance of help.'

Jeremy Stafford, Chief Executive of Serco UK & Europe, added:  'This code sets the bar high for how companies such as Serco should work alongside their partners in the voluntary sector - and rightly so. We are proud of our many relationships with organisations in this sector. Their skills complement ours and by pulling together we can bring innovation and fresh thinking to the delivery of public services.'

Nick Hurd MP, Minister for Civil Society, said:  'Public sector commissioners want to buy services from the best people to do the job and deliver social impact - often these will be VCSE providers.  I welcome this Code of Practice which provides an important framework for VCSE and private sector organisations to strengthen their partnerships, in order to grow the market and deliver better public services.'


The guidance is available online at .

NCVO champions and strengthens the voluntary sector, with over 10,000 members, from the largest charities to the smallest community organisations.