Tag Archives: social enterprise

The campaigners’ view of the Gloucestershire case on social enterprise and the NHS

By David Bicknell

Left Foot Forward recently carried a piece discussing the impact of the recent case in Gloucestershire where campaigners had “argued that the local PCT had acted unlawfully in planning to hand over management of nine county hospitals and 3,000 community health staff in what would have been the biggest planned transfer (so far) to a social enterprise in the country.”

It is written from the perspective of the campaigners who question, now that the Health Bill is passed, how far are current NHS providers obliged to put existing services out to competitive tender?

Rounding-up coverage of David Cameron’s planned Co-operatives Bill

By David Bicknell

Prime Minister David Cameron’s announcement of  a forthcoming ‘Co-operatives Bill’ to consolidate outdated pieces of legislation governing co-operatives and mutuals into a single statute has been heavily commented on in recent days.

Cameron said the Co-operatives Bill would cut red tape and help to build a fairer economy, ensuring that co-operative members can share in the benefits of enterprise. 

Here is a round-up of coverage in the last few days about the planned bill and about co-operatives and mutuals.

Co-operatives UK

The Daily Telegraph

The Guardian

The Economist

Transition Institute

Transition Institute’s weekly round-up of mutuals and spin-out stories

By David Bicknell

Here is a link to the Transition Institute’s weekly round-up of mutuals and public sector spin-out stories.

NB The link  on the Transition Institute site to the Public Service article on procurement change and SMEs on 13th January doesn’t work. The link below does, however.

Pace of procurement change frustrates innovative SMEs

A swift round-up of 2012 previews, mutuals and social enterprise stories

By David Bicknell

The Transition Institute has done a good job of rounding up some of the New Year look-ahead pieces around social enterprise, mutuals and what 2012 has in store for local government, health and social care.

You can see the round up here

Time to move beyond ‘Paint it Black’

By David Bicknell

I can see what Craig Dearden-Philips is getting at in this blog, but I’m not sure it needs to paint such a dire economic picture. There is too much talking down of the economy. No-one will spend any money because everyone from politicians to forecasters to social entrepreneurs to journalists  is trying to out-do each other and paint the blackest picture. There’s no leadership there – just followship.

Dearden-Philips argues that “a crisis of the sort we’re probably heading into will, one way or another, make it far more attractive to reinvent than cut back services. Careers – political and professional – will not survive if slash’n’burn is the modus operandi. For those of us who have long been advocating a reinvention of public services this could end up being, our moment.

“So spin-outs, community-based services, co-ops, innovations that allow decommissioning – all of these things could have a political attractiveness that is currently missing. The sadness is that it will take things getting really quite catastrophically bad before that happens.”

He’s right that spin-outs, community-based services, co-ops, innovations that allow decommissioning do need the right landscape to thrive. But how many employees will feel like spinning out when the picture is painted this black? Better to cling on ‘inside’ than venture – an appropriate word – out and create something new. Employee ownership? Out there? No thanks. I’ll just stay here.

If the government wants to see mutuals thrive, it has to paint a picture of opportunity and  create the right environment to create enthusiam, drive, and investment. That means spurning the negative talk that’s all too easy to do and creating the right environment for change and the tools  – finance, procurement etc – to achieve it.

Is the government up to do the job? When it makes its next pronouncement on open public services, it has to provide the impetus to reinforce  a willing mentality that says ‘Yes, can do’ not ‘Paint it Black.’

I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. But that’s what governments are for: to govern and provide the right environment for change. 

Positive thinking, leadership and action please, not negative no-choices. Opportunity; not opt out.

Global 300 co-operatives generate $1.6 trillion revenue

Cabinet Office tells mutuals future is bright despite Central Surrey Health struggles over NHS deal

By David Bicknell

The Cabinet Office has encouraged would-be mutual and social enterprises to see the government’s plans to open up public services as a positive move that yields new opportunities despite a flagship mutual reportedly losing out on a major contract to a commercial organisation for NHS services.

The Financial Times reported yesterday that Assura Medical has been named as preferred bidder for a five- year contract worth about £90m a year for community health services in Surrey, beating a bid by Central Surrey Health, the flagship social enterprise that runs services in the neighbouring area.

A Cabinet Office spokesman was quoted as saying: “This is not the end for Central Surrey Health; they continue to provide critical services for the people of Surrey. Across the public sector we have started to see the emergence of a new wave of mutuals.

“The government has ambitious plans to support front-line staff who want to form mutual organisations and take control of the services they provide. We are working to ensure that all organisations bid for contracts on a level playing field. We are currently conducting a listening exercise on the Open Public Services white paper, it’s vital that mutual organisations contribute to the discussion.”

The government wants to see the fledgling mutual and social enterprise sector grow to encourage a million staff to leave the public sector and sell services back to local government and the NHS.

In a press release issued by Social Enterprise UK, Peter Holbrook, the organisation’s chief executive encouraged the government to create a financial level playing field and give mutual and social enterprises the chance to gain a foothold in the commercial world:

“If Central Surrey Health, the government’s flagship mutual social enterprise, which has demonstrated considerable success in transforming health services and increasing productivity can’t win, what does this say for the future of the mutuals agenda?

“Central Surrey Health reinvests all the profits it makes locally. It is difficult to imagine how Assura, with shareholders expecting a financial return, could do more to benefit people in Surrey.

“It is not enough for government to open up markets; it needs to create fair markets that benefit society. Some of the financial criteria used in contracts create an unequal playing field in which social enterprises are unable to compete because they may not have the same financial backing as private sector providers.  Unless swift action is taken to address this we will see social enterprises and mutuals lose out to the private sector.

“Public sector workers will be understandably anxious about spinning out from the NHS and setting up a social enterprise on the back of this news. The government needs to take action to reassure them that they will not be operating in markets weighted against them.

It has been argued by unions that mutualisation hides a privatisation agenda with mutuals at risk of losing out to commercial operators as contracts come up for renewal. Central Surrey’s own contract is reported to be up for renewal next year.

Central Surrey Health was the UK’s first social enterprise to leave the NHS and set up as an employee-owned business four years ago. Central Surrey Health is contracted to deliver community nursing and therapy services on behalf of the NHS and other organisations (e.g. Surrey County Council) to the 280,000 population of central Surrey. It is owned by the nurses and therapists it employs, who each own a 1p, not-for-dividend share.

It has been selected by the Cabinet Office to help mentor employee-owned organisations coming out of the public sector. Twelve fledgling public service spin-offs have been chosen by the Cabinet Office to be ‘Pathfinders’ for the rest of the public sector. As mentors, Central Surrey Health will work with and support staff on Pathfinder projects to help them develop sustainable, efficient and pioneering employee-led services. Last November it was also named as the Prime Minister’s first Big Society Award winner.

Hammersmith& Fulham Pathfinder to launch in 2012

Councils consider mutuals and social enterprises among new funding models for youth services

By David Bicknell

The London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham has  proposed a pilot scheme to set up an employee-led mutual to deliver services to schools and the council, with the council commissioning some services from the mutual for a four year period.  But what are other councils doing in the area of children and youth services?

This article about youth services on the Children & Young People Now site suggests that according to a recent study, when questioned about alternative funding models for funding youth services, 34 per cent of local authorities say they are considering social enterprises, 20 per cent are looking into youth mutuals and 15 per cent say they are currently considering outsourcing their entire youth service to another provider. Overall, only 37 per cent are considering any alternative models of funding.

The article quotes Sue Payne, chair of the Confederation of Heads of Young People’s Services, which brings together council youth chiefs, saying that CYP Now’s study highlighted that councils are “increasing the number of services they are commissioning.”

Payne said the study showed encouraging signs that authorities are seeking new funding avenues. “There are quite a lot of moves towards social enterprises and youth mutuals,” she said, adding that only a year ago very few youth services would have considered these options.

She added the point that that “You can’t just create good delivery systems overnight”. Although external providers had a strong track record in delivering information, advice and guidance, she said, this was not the case in areas such as targeted youth support.

Guardian Social Enterprise event to focus on solutions to move on from ‘brave new dawn’

The Guardian has published details of its Social Enterprise 2011 conference to be held in London on 8th November.

It argues that social enterprise was seen as a brave new dawn for service delivery but since the social enterprise unit was set up ten years ago, progress has been relatively slow.

The one day event “explores the facts about social enterprises providing public sector services. It provides candid discussion about the obstacles and practical solutions to the challenges the sector faces.”

The conference will discuss what the government is doing to scale up ambitious enterprises, and look at business models, finance and commissioning.  It will also take a close look at mutuals  from the point of view of service delivery rather than organisational structure. The reasons some mutuals have done so well is that they provide exceptional services and customer loyalty.  So what lessons can be learned from successful mutuals?

Here are details of the conference programme.

Prioritise co-operatives and mutuals to redistribute and create work, says Lib Dems’ Simon Hughes

In  a piece in the Observer yesterday, Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes called for co-operatives and mutual businesses and social enterprise to be prioritised as part of a redistribution and creation of work.

In the wake of  last week’s riots, he argued, “A responsible economy is necessary for a responsible society. Building local, regional and national economies which provide the opportunity for all to participate in for fair reward will build much stronger communities. This will counter the appeal of the gangs and the get-rich-quick merchants. Other people and activity must now capture the energies and abilities of a generation that has greater potential than any we have had before.”

Moving the mutuals discussion forward beyond the Open Public Services White Paper

By David Bicknell

Some strong words are being expressed about the ongoing development of mutuals and co-operatives by two commentators, Ed Mayo of Co-operatives UK and Craig Dearden-Philips.

Mayo’s article highlights the Foster Care Co-operative, an independent and ethical ‘not-for-private-profit’ fostering agency, based in Malvern, Worcestershire, with three regional offices, Greenwich Leisure Limited is one of London’s most successful mutual enterprises, operating more than 90 public leisure centres in the South East and West Whitlawburn Housing Co-operative is a fully mutual housing co-operative in the south east area of Glasgow which provides, manages and maintains quality affordable housing as examples of what people, working together can achieve.

But he warned, there will be challenges for public sector workers setting up new co-operatives.  “We need to ensure that we can provide real help which will guarantee that they are supported through this process, if indeed that’s what they want to do. Any new co-operatives formed need to enshrine the co-operative values and mustn’t be allowed to be ‘fake mutuals’.”

“Co-operatives can only succeed – and in the public sector success is essential – if they are independent enterprises, controlled by their members – staff and users. ”

In his article, Dearden-Philips says this, “What it (the Open Public Services White Paper) does for spin-outs can be more clearly expressed by stating what it dodges. In short, the three ‘P’s. Procurement, Pensions and People. It doesn’t tell public bodies that they can give spin-outs contracts and enjoy support from the centre in doing this. It doesn’t clear the mud about pension-rights for staff joining a spin-out or going back into the public sector afterwards. It doesn’t allow give clear rights to people who want to do this the entitlement to do it, assuming the business-case is there. Compared to the Academies Bill, which made all of the above very clear – with mass spinning out as a result – this White Paper was lightweight.

“All is not gloom. The Government’s own Mutual Support Programme opens in the Autumn and there are signs that the Department of Health’s successful Social Enterprise Investment Fund (SEIF) will also reopen for business soon. Conferences are aplenty, and some have more than just consultants in attendance, notably the Employee Ownership Association’s excellent event this month.

“Further to this, there are also signs that local authorities in particular are rising from the canvas following the knockout blow from this current year’s financial settlement. While a punishing in-year programme has needed to be put in place, absorbing all energy to date, councils are now eyeing the horizon and looking more strategically at the question of how they deal with greater demand and fewer resources long-term.

“The answer many are coming up with is that you can only really deliver more and better public services through a more fulsome engagement with citizens and communities. The public service cake used to be just made of one ingredient: public money. In future, the cake will be more complex, combining public funds, private funds, citizen effort and community endevour. The tailored, equitable services we all want will only come with all of these extra element ‘baked-in’.

“The questions most councils up and down are now grappling with is how to do this. Legacy services are expensive and ineffective but often politically incendiary because of what they represent. Public libraries are an example. The potential for libraries as community-hubs is well-documented but you need to convince people of the need for a new type of settlement for these kinds of institutions to work properly. This includes volunteers on top of paid staff, fundraising on top of public funding, paid for services on top of free ones, a business outlook on top of a social one.

“Where I am driving here is that I think the solution to the big question councils are grappling with lies in social enterprise. This defines social enterprise not in the frame of the public-private continuum, but as an entirely new approach to producing the public goods that most of us wish to see in our communities. For this reason, we should see their development as outside the usual EU procurement mindset that preoccupies most commissioners of services. Local authorities should be freed up from worrying about that and worry instead about how they are going to best combine their own resources with those of communities and citizens. ”

Meanwhile, there are more details here about a potential new source of funding for social enterprise

Mutualisation Briefing