New models of social care

Dave MartinThe Centre for Policy on Ageing (CPA) and Co-operatives UK arranged a roundtable event on 18 February 2015 to foster greater understanding and consider the development of social care co-operatives. Dave Martin (an associate with CPA) reports from the gathering. (753 words)

‘Hardly a month goes by without another scare story about aspects of our health and care services. Is there a democratically accountable ownership model for health and care services that could make a difference? Could the active membership and co-operative ownership of workers, service users, volunteers and family members rebuild public trust in services and put an end to cruelty and neglect through a socially inclusive solution where the system of care is owned by the recipients?

In a growing number of countries, from Europe to Canada and Japan, diverse co-operative models of social care are expanding. We believe these approaches can be further developed in the UK and that they would benefit the lives of vulnerable people by empowering them directly in decisions that affect their care.’—Pat Conaty (Research Associate, Co-operatives UK) in The Guardian, 4 July 2014.

The roundtable event was attended by a diverse group of people, described as three circles of interest—first, people who had been involved with the co-operative movement for some time, secondly people seeking to develop (or convert to) a co-operative model for the delivery of care, looking for support and assistance, and thirdly policymakers and commissioners sniffing around—is this the way for the future?

Encouragingly, there was considerable alignment and complementarity in the reasons people gave for attending and what their priorities were. These came under two broad themes:

Rethinking care delivery: Urgently need a new way to deliver care / Concern about a race to the bottom in financing, standards and human respect / Need to replace the venture capital model / Interested in models that allow older people to contribute and be active / Want to see a bottom up approach to meeting needs / Interested in a community planned approach to care / Looking for new models existing care providers can adopt / Need to understand where commissioning fits in


Working together: Want to create a coalition of shared agendas among those in care, policy and the co-op movement / Want to form an English Consortium for developing and promoting social care co-ops / Want to build on Welsh success / Want to understand how the co-op sector, the care sector, communities, and governments can work together

Speakers at the event included:

Pat Conaty, Research Associate at Co-operatives UK, author of Social Co-operatives, a democratic co-production agenda for care services in the UK.

Pat Conaty speaks about social care co-operatives in this YouTube video

Pat Conaty speaks about social care co-operatives in this YouTube video

Robin Murray, London School of Economics, talked about:

  • the need to move away from the failing ‘fordist’ mass production of welfare services and the rise of distributed systems as a powerful alternative
  • his strong belief that in care the multi-stakeholder co-op model is the answer

Cliff Mills of Mutuo, which works to grow and strengthen the co-operative and mutual sector by:

  • Communicating their priorities to decision makers
  • Acting as an advocate with politicians and regulators
  • Building links between mutual business leaders
  • Developing new mutual businesses

Cliff presented on mutuality in health and social care, looking at historical and current developments. The significance of the ‘NHS Five Year Forward Review’ was highlighted for its candour and for emphasising the need for new relationships between the NHS and the public. Cliff stressed the importance of building a new service delivery model, not a new business model. Cliff emphasised that this is not about rearranging the office furniture, but transforming the mentality and the culture of social care provisioning.

A team from Kent spoke about significant developments towards piloting new care models in Kent, (Our Place: Wye, Kent County Council, Action with Communities in Rural Kent and Social Enterprise Kent).

Adrian Roper of Cartrefi Cymru, which is a not-for-profit organisation that supports people in Wales to lead fulfilled lives, at home and in the community. The organisation supports people with disabilities, autism, challenging behaviour, older people, and provides breaks and support for carers. Adrian gave an overview of progress in Wales:

  • National level support via the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014
  • Mid Wales Social Co-operative Consortium
  • Possible government support for the Social Co-op Development Forum

Next steps

Further meetings will be held in coming months. Anthony Collins (solicitors) have offered to host the next meeting in Birmingham and the CPA offered to host the third meeting in London.

Co-operatives UK committed some Policy and Communications resource to help establish an English Hub and develop its agenda. For further information contact: James Wright, Co-operativess UK Policy Officer

Dave Martin is an associate with The Centre for Policy on Ageing. Further details and full notes are available from Dave at