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Better outcomes

Not just good value: A Social Return On Investment (SROI) Study of Hertfordshire Community Meals

Making the business case

Hertfordshire Community Meals (HCM) is not just a provider of meals. Our recent ‘Social Return On Investment’ (SROI) study revealed that HCM has a hugely positive indirect impact on a wide range of stakeholders. Perhaps most importantly, this impact translates into tangible savings for public sector organisations. Indeed, the SROI study argued that from a total investment of around £2.3m (in 2011/2012), HCM generated approximately £12.3m in wider social value. 

The study was carried out by an SROI practitioner in collaboration with Anglia Ruskin University and was subsequently approved by the assurance process of the SROI Network. After going through a detailed process of analysis the study found that, on average, for every £1 invested in HCM’s core meals service, £5.28 of value was created for stakeholders (44% of the value for clients, 36% for public organisations such as the local authority, and 20% for carers and/or family members).

Methodology of the SROI Study

Broadly speaking there are seven stages to carrying out an SROI study: (1) establish scope; (2) identify stakeholders; (3) map outcomes; (4) evidence outcomes; (5) give outcomes a value; (6) establish impact and (7) calculate SROI. These stages, and examples from HCM’s study, are described in greater detail below:

  1. The scope of HCM’s SROI study was to demonstrate the social value generated by community meals services for the purpose of commissioning, funding applications, and internal strategic business planning. The study focused on HCM’s core business activities; namely delivering meals, carrying out basic welfare checks during delivery, ‘Operation Sponge Pudding’ (a joint HCM-Hertfordshire Constabulary-Hertfordshire Fire and Rescue community safety project), and volunteering opportunities associated with the delivery of MoWs. 
  2. Stakeholders were identified as clients themselves (a total population of 1500), carers and/or family members of clients (1200), volunteers, Local Authorities, and the NHS.
  3. Consultation with stakeholder groups was key to the mapping of outcomes. For example, interviews with clients and their carers revealed that as a result of receiving HCM’s MoWs service, some clients feel happier, healthier, safer, more secure, and have greater independence.
  4. In evidencing its outcomes HCM had to go through a process of developing appropriate methods of data collection. Generally speaking, this meant interviewing stakeholders, carrying out focus groups, and then developing relevant questionnaires for those groups on a larger scale before analysing the results.
  5. In giving outcomes a value it was necessary to attach appropriate ‘financial proxies’ to a range of different outcomes reported. For example, a significant proportion of clients reported that if they did not receive HCM’s MoWs service it is likely that they would be placed into residential care. The SROI Practitioner asserted that the average cost of residential care in the UK is £987 per week, or £51,278 per year, and according to the Wanless Social Care Review around 38% of social care expenditure was funded by social service departments, or £19,483.
  6. In establishing impact the study goes through a sensitivity analysis and thus the processes of ‘attribution’ and ‘deadweight’ to ensure HCM’s impact is neither underestimated nor overestimated respectively. This is key to ensure both the credibility and objectivity of the study.

The social value provided by Hertsfordshire Community Meals

The statistical evidence suggests that HCM generates considerable value for its stakeholders. Yet in addition to quantitative evidence, HCM gathered a significant quantity of qualitative evidence, particularly from clients and their carers, which indicates the value that the service provides. For example, a large number of clients reported that because of the service provided to them by HCM, they are happier, healthier, and have greater peace of mind. Clients and their carers also told HCM that they felt more independent, their lives are easier, and that they are now able to work full-time as a result of not having to take time off from work to feed their relatives.

Sam Tappenden

Business Development Manager, Hertfordshire Community Meals


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