Supported businesses are enterprises where over 50% of their workforce have a disability. The definition is recognised across Europe and referred to in European regulations.
Article 19 of Directive 2004/18/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 31st March 2004 allows procurement officers to "reserve" contracts so that only supported businesses can compete for them. Contracts cannot be reserved for a specific organisation and all bids from supported factories and businesses submitted under the reserved contracts arrangements are still assessed on a value for money basis, with award to the bid offering the best value for money.
BASE has been working with procurement officials in Scotland and Wales to create framework agreements. Contracting authorities can reserve a lot or category within a framework for supported factories and businesses to compete for. Where permitted, contracting authorities can also utilise existing framework agreements that use supported factories or businesses.
A great deal of progress has been made in Scotland where four framework agreements are now in place covering furniture, document management, textiles and signage. The Scottish Government has established a Supported Business Advisory Group chaired by Fergus Ewing MSP which BASE attends. This work has been acknowledged at the 2013 Procurex Awards where BASE Scotland were highly commended in the Sustainability / CSR Initiative of the Year award category after winning the award in 2011.
Watch Alistair Kerr speaking about supported business
Things have been a bit hit and miss in Wales. There are no current framework agreements in place but there's a lot of support from officials. Supported businesses featured highly in the Welsh Government's Framework for Action on Independent Living.
Since 2010 there has been no progress at all in England where there appears to be little appetite for discussing supported business at the moment. Prior to 2010, Government Departments had identified procurement champions and BASE had an NEC member co-opted to work alongside Government.
BASE has developed an online directory of supported businesses and a hard copy directory is available in Scotland.