3 Aug, 17
With social care in need of transformation and political parties focused on finding solutions, the new report published by the Co-operative Care Forums for England and Wales – Owning our Care – identifies the barriers and opportunities for social care organisations that are owned and controlled by service users, practitioners and the local community.
The research identifies a number of recommendations needed to enable those interested in user and community-led social care to put their aspirations into practice:
- We need to improve access to quality advice about how co-operative approaches can work in practice and how they can be used as a practical tool for empowering users, practitioners and communities
- Projects to develop user and community-led care need to include investment in grassroots community development
- Policymakers and commissioners need to get better at recognising and responding to the realities of genuine user and community empowerment, including a fuller understating of how best to integrate volunteers alongside empowered practitioners and service users
- Local authorities need to encourage a model of personalisation and individual delivery that is complemented by social connectivity and collective empowerment
- User and community-led organisations need holistic, nurturing relationships with anchor institutions that afford them the time and space to engage with and empower people properly
Adrian Roper, the CEO of Cartrefi Cymru, Wales’s largest rural social care provider, which last year converted to a co-op owned by its users, workers and community supporters, said:
“It’s still early days, but the benefits of being a co-op already include better feedback about how we can improve what we do, a significant increase in activities which make our communities better for everyone – at no extra cost to anyone – and a host of new contributions from local suppliers and community members.
To date, our commissioners appear to be relaxed about our transformation to a co-op. The challenge will perhaps come when services have to be re-tendered. Will our members’ voices and our added value to the local area count or not? We hope so.”
The Welsh Government, under the Sustainable Social Services Third Sector Grant Scheme, funds a three year project in Wales called Care to Co-operate, which has been designed to support the development of social co-operatives like Cartrefi Cymru.
Donna Coyle, project manager of Care to Co-operate at the Wales Co-operative Centre, explains:
“The people of Wales have said they want services in which they have a say, a voice and control. What if people could decide for themselves who provides the services they use and how? Thanks to the Social Services and Wellbeing Wales Act, Care to Co-operate can help bring people together who want to plan and provide better care for their family, friends and neighbours. We help them connect with other people in their community who want the same thing and help them set up care co-operatives.”
For more information on Care to Co-operate service and how it could help you contact the team via https://wales.coop/helping-people-set-up-care-co-operatives/ or telephone 0300 111 5050.
Case study: Cartrefi Cymru
Cartrefi Cymru used to be a very good but fairly typical, top-down, charitable provider of social care in rural Wales. But they saw that co-operative ownership, which gives the people that rely on the organisation a say in how it is run, were important for the provision of sustainable, high quality support and over the last year have converted to a co-op.
With a turnover of £21 million and 1,250 employees Cartrefi Cymru Co-operative, is now a co-operative owned by the stakeholders that are involved with the organisation – its users, employees, and family supporters. They have the opportunity to become voting members who can stand for the board and have a democratic voice in decisions.
The co-operative structure, which was developed with support from the Wales Co-operative Centre, offers a way to hard-wire user involvement and accountability into the organisation’s governance, meaning that can reassure it’s users that it is committed to the highest standards of social care and employment practice, and has effective channels in place to listen to their needs.
Recognising the role that reciprocity and well-being play in sustaining effective social care, Cartrefi Cymru has also put a new focus on bringing users, families and employee together to strengthen their communities by using local member forums to make decisions democratically and as equals.
Note to editor
The report can be accessed at www.uk.coop/owningourcare
For more information or interviews contact Mike Erskine, Wales Co-operative Centre on 02920 807 127 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Co-operatives UK is the network for Britain’s thousands of co-operatives. Together we work to promote, develop and unite member-owned businesses across the economy. From high street retailers to community owned pubs, fan owned football clubs to farmer controlled businesses, co-operatives are everywhere and together they are worth £36 billion to the British economy. www.uk.coop
The Wales Co-operative Centre is a co-operative development agency, working across Wales to promote social, financial and digital inclusion through a range of projects. For further information visit http://wales.coop