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Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of UK economy, and in 2023, the Government reasserted its commitment to support SMEs in the BEIS SME action plan which set out a roadmap to reduce the barriers for SMEs around accessing public sector contracts.

The majority of the UK’s language service companies come under the ‘S’ in the definition of SMEs, and these are also the companies making up the majority of the ATC’s member companies. As businesses, they have the wealth of expertise, commitment and local and regional connections to add value to the diverse landscape of the UK’s multicultural and multilingual public services.

However, small companies are also the ones facing the highest barriers to access public sector contracts, and the most challenges in terms of meeting tender, framework and contractual requirements with very limited financial and human resources.

As the Government’s public buying organisations (PBOs) continue to close gaps in unmonitored ad hoc and off-contract work, and to bring local public sector work under centralised control, it is hugely important that provisions are made for small businesses’ access to public sector work in a way that is proportionate to the commercial opportunity, and within the reach of small businesses’ capabilities and resources.

7 recommendations to support small businesses

This ATC Small Business White Paper sets out seven recommendations for the UK’s public sector commissioning and buying organisations on how to support small companies in accessing public sector language service contracts, striking a balance between centralised procurement approaches and the social value of local provision.

  • Engage with the market to lower barriers to entry.
  • Establish a structure to support small businesses.
  • Build in pricing that keeps small businesses in business.
  • Adjust requirements to small business scale.
  • Set uniform qualification and competence levels.
  • Support remote solutions through accessible technology.
  • Define financial controls fairly and appropriately.


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