Democratic Co-Production Agenda for Care Services in the UK

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* Report: Social Co-operatives, a Democratic Co-production Agenda for Care Services in the UK. By Pat Conaty. Co-operatives UK, 2014

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"Hardly a month goes by without another horror story in the press and media about a disturbing state  of affairs in our health and care services. The prosecutions at Winterbourne View, the massive collapse  and public sector rescue of Southern Cross are symptomatic of a national care service system in crisis.  Is there a democratically accountable ownership model for health and care services that could make a  difference? Quite simply, could the active membership and co­operative governance of workers, service  users, volunteers and family members rebuild public trust in care services and put an end to cruelty and  neglect through an ownership transformation solution by stakeholders that is socially inclusive? These  fundamental questions are the focus of this study.

This report reviews best practice in the co­operative health and social care services; and through a  comparative review, draws lessons from international experience of relevance to the UK. In a growing  number of countries from Europe to Canada and Japan, diverse co­operative models of social care are  expanding and developing creative new systems of accountability with dynamic forms of inclusive  community membership and ownership." (


From the press release at launch:

"The new strategy, ‘Social Co-operatives, a Democratic Co-production Agenda for Care Services in the UK’, examines best practice in co-operative health and social care services and draws lessons from international experience where co-operative models of delivery are widespread and are evolving dynamic forms of community membership and ownership.

The strategy marks a clear statement of intent to develop a new market of quality care for vulnerable citizens. With the increasing effect of austerity measures placing more pressure on all aspects of public sector delivery, the publication identifies opportunities for co-operative and mutual approaches to deliver social care across the UK.

Drawing on the work of around seventy co-operative mutual pioneers in the social care field, the new strategy explores the potential for a radical new model of social care.

The strategy identifies a market opportunity for the co-operative movement to collaborate with other stakeholders in the public, voluntary and social enterprise sector to develop multi-stakeholder models for social care. It makes twelve key recommendations. Amongst these, it calls for increased awareness about the potential for co-operative and multi-stakeholder models and of the associated legal models. It calls for fiscal incentives to be developed at governmental level to assist the social care co-operative sector to develop and expand. The strategy identifies the need to utilise digital technology and consortia approaches to secure ‘economies of co-operation’ and the need for social finance mechanisms to mobilise capital development.

Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK, the national body that campaigns for co-operation and works to promote, develop and unite co-operative enterprises. He commented,

“The social co-operative model turns the users of social care into partners, alongside the workforce, with both given an ownership stake in the business and a share in it’s success. It will see a new market of quality care developed for the country’s vulnerable citizens.”

The document was written by Pat Conaty, research associate, at Co-operatives UK.

Glenn Bowen is Director of Enterprise at the Wales Co-operative Centre. The Wales Co-operative Centre is the leading agency in Wales supporting and developing co-operatives and social businesses. He commented,

“The publication of this new strategy comes at an important time for co-operatives and mutuals in Wales. As more and more local authorities are forced to review how they deliver their services, this strategy demonstrates that there is a place for multi-stakeholder models which engage and empower both their employees and their clients.

“This is a sector in which increased ownership from within the body of people who receive the care can drive forward standards and improve engagement. A real sense of ownership of care can empower its recipients and help them to improve the quality of their own lives”.

The publication of the report comes at a particularly important time for co-operative development in Wales. In February, the Wales Co-operative and Mutuals Commission published its over-arching report on the co-operative sector in Wales. The Commission recommended extending the specialist support for growth and development of co-operatives in specific sectors with growth potential. Social care was one of the areas discussed by the Commission.

Last week, the Minister for Economy, Science and Transport responded to the Co-operatives and Mutuals Commission report and within a statement that offered several very positive measures for co-operative development in Wales, referred to support for the growth and development of specific sectors with growth potential.

This follows just a few weeks after the announcement that a Big Lottery Innovation grant has been awarded to the Wales Co-operative Centre and Disability Wales to deliver a new co-operative project, Citizen Directed Co-operatives Cymru, which will enable disabled people in Wales to have greater control over their lives." (

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