Tag Archives: social enterprises

Maude: “We want services to be run by mutuals, social enterprises and small businesses”

By David Bicknell

Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude is to reinforce the message that the government wants its  services to be run and delivered by mutuals, social enterprises and small businesses.

Maude will tell a conference: “In the current climate we can no longer afford waste – demand for services is growing at a time of fiscal constraint.

“But we should not tolerate wasting public money whatever the economic climate. We need to find new ways of delivering public services that are high quality, cost effective and genuinely responsive to the needs of individuals, communities and businesses at local level.

“We believe that nearly all public services can be improved by being delivered by a wide range of organisations. What and how services are delivered are more important than who they are delivered by, and competition breeds innovation and creativity. These in turn will deliver service improvements.

“We want services to be run and delivered by mutuals, social enterprises and small businesses; and we want the talented people who are enthusiastic about what they do to be freed up to deliver services in the way that they think is best.”

Maude’s message comes as most public sector managers say they outsource work to save money, with few believing it leads to improved services.

A survey of 100 human resources directors from government departments, local authorities, NHS trusts and police forces revealed concerns that outsourcing services to private firms would lead to a loss of expertise in the public sector.

The research, by Totaljobs.com, found that almost two-thirds of managers believed outsourcing would cut costs, while only one in four said it would deliver better quality services.

The report will be discussed at the conference aimed at examining the implications on recruitment and skills of Government plans to achieve £40 billion of procurement savings in the next three years

Mike Booker of Totaljobs.com said: “The perception that the skills needed in the public and private sector are somehow different is being swept away by the more pressing need to work together to achieve £40 billion in savings.

“While we’re seeing large numbers of public sector workers looking to migrate to the private sector, it must not be forgotten that essential private sector skills are in high demand in the public sector with our site alone housing 326 postings for public sector procurement professionals.”

Are we sleep-walking towards a Big Six in public services?

By David Bicknell

David Cameron is due to meet the Big Six energy companies to persuade them to rein in their  price increases.

But are we in danger of sleep-walking towards a Big Six in public services too? This piece by the excellent Craig Dearden-Phillips makes some strong points about a ‘possible cartelisation of public services’.

He argues that the government needs to be ‘more categoric about mutuals and  social enterprises. This sector doesn’t really have much chance in a free-for-all. Government commitment to seeing a strong mutual sector, backed by the will to see it done, is what is needed now if the diversity spoken of in the public services white paper is to be more than just a wish-list. Diversity needs to be deliberately created as markets need to be ‘made’, he says.

Incidentally, an earlier piece by Dearden-Phillips refers to the situation in Stroud where a court order was successfully applied for to stop a social enterprise being formed to take forward former NHS services. You can read more about that case here

Much has been written about Central Surrey Health’s bid for a contract that has already prompted much jump-the-gun downbeat thinking about the prospects of mutuals. Baroness Jay was the latest to weigh in on the contract according to  a report last week.

I would suggest that perhaps it’s time for a bit of perspective here. It’s one contract; and it’s not the only contract that Central Surrey Health is bidding for, I’m sure. Business’s  fortunes  don’t depend on one contract; they bid for numbers of pieces of work. They win some; they lose some. Hopefully they win more than they lose.

I would expect that if Central Surrey Health has lost this opportunity – and I have yet to hear any public comment from it that it has – then it is already  looking ahead to the next one – or ones – after that. And then further opportunities too.

Surely the fortunes and prospects for the mutuals sector don’t just rest on the back of one NHS mutual, and one contract. A bit more positivity and perspective wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Economic boost of nurturing mutuals and social enterprises a key focus of party conference season

By David Bicknell

Mutuals and social enterprises are likely to be a strong area of interest in this year’s party conference season, which gets underway for the main parties with the Liberal Democrats in Birmingham on September 17th.

As the Guardian reports in this piece looking forward to the party conferences through a social enterprise lens, much of the focus will be on the role that social enterprise can play in transforming public services and stimulating economic recovery. 

It makes the point that “new research by Social Enterprise UK (formerly the Social Enterprise Coalition) has revealed a “start up explosion”, with 39% of social enterprises based and working in Britain’s most deprived areas. This compares to 13% of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

“The research also found that the UK’s 62,000 social enterprises are outstripping business in terms of growth – 58% of social enterprises grew last year compared to 28% of SMEs.”

The optimism is to some extent offset by pessimism that  the current commissioning process will favour large-scale private sector providers over mutuals and social enterprises.

Here are links to the main parties conferences:

Lib Dems

NHS mutuals and social enterprises will need more support to succeed, says the King’s Fund

By David Bicknell

Healthcare think-tank, The King’s Fund, has produced a new report on social enterprise in healthcare which suggests  that there  are many practical challenges facing organisations in making the transformation to becoming a social enterprise or mutual.

These include including access to NHS pensions for new staff and the vulnerability of smaller organisations to failure, particularly given the change in payment mechanisms from block contracts and grants to an ‘any qualified provider’ model. Some will fail or, at best, become subcontractors for much larger businesses.

The King’s Fund report adds that  any qualified provider presents an opportunity for social enterprises (and other emergent providers) to enter the market. The Cabinet Office has stated that social enterprises can be a ‘force for innovation’, which need support through more intelligent commissioning.

“All providers will need to be better at demonstrating outcomes, particularly those delivering non-clinical services such as advocacy and support, where outcomes are much harder to measure and prove, the report says.

The King’s Fund says its findings echo those of the recent Co-operatives UK report, Time to Get Serious (Bland 2011), which identified the factors that will be important in establishing mutuals and co-operatives across UKpublic services.

These include concentrated business planning and support – during both the implementation and operational phases – and long-term commissioning and political commitment to nurturing the development of the social enterprise model.

“Assuming that social enterprises are to be embedded as health care provider organisations, they need time to evolve and to emulate the levels of customer service, quality and innovation seen in organisations in the commercial sector. Social enterprise directors spoke at length about the benefits available to them; however, the extent to which they are exercising these freedoms to innovate or grow is unclear,” says The King’s Fund report.

“Transferring out of the NHS now has additional risks, because organisations will not be protected by the long-term contracts that were initially available through the Transforming Community Services programme. The social enterprise directors and foundation trust chief executives we interviewed gave a clear message that the most significant feature of social enterprises is their focus on engaging staff in decision-making, rather than offering a package of incentives.

“However, some felt that staff engagement can be achieved without formally changing the ownership structure of an organisation. Giving staff a stake in the organisation they work for needs to be combined with much deeper engagement in decision-making than has traditionally been the case in the NHS, particularly when it comes to empowering frontline teams.

“Changing an organisation’s culture is much more difficult than altering its structure, but is essential if further improvements in performance are to be achieved. This has implications for workplace relationships, and requires leadership styles that foster collaborative and inclusive approaches to problem-solving.

“There are a variety of options for NHS providers to reap the benefits of the social enterprise model – namely greater staff engagement, flexibility and autonomy, and flatter decision-making – without major organisational upheavals. For example, models such as multi-professional partnerships – extending GP partnership models to others in primary care/social and community care or in secondary care, and multi-professional chambers within foundation trusts – build on the benefits of service line management in providing autonomy and flexibility to clinical teams.

“Providers, whether NHS, private sector or not-for profit, cannot wait for the commissioning intentions of clinical commissioning groups to become clear. They need to be proactive, working with others to design high-value services that no commissioner could refuse to buy. Social enterprises are well placed to do that. However, whether the government’s vision of the largest social enterprise sector in the world will be realised depends on the motivation of NHS organisations, their ability to overcome barriers and realise the benefits of social enterprise, and whether social enterprise is sustainable in the long term. The opportunities are there; the question is whether staff and their leaders want to take them.”

The King’s Fund’s recommendations for the future development and sustainability of social enterprises delivering NHS-funded care include:

  • Miscommunication and misinformation has hampered the establishment and operation of social enterprises in health care. The Department of Health must continue to take responsibility for ensuring the accurate dissemination of information about social enterprise and the Right to Provide programme, as well as broader developments in NHS terms and conditions and the support available to emergent social enterprises. This builds on its existing programme of workshops, sitevisits, case studies and networks.
  • Social enterprise directors should establish and maintain an open dialogue with staff and external stakeholders in the setting-up phase and throughout operations. The values of social enterprise and employee participation should be reflected in what the organisation does from its inception. Staff engagement is especially important during challenging periods or when making difficult decisions.
  • Central government, the Department of Health and directors of health care providers should not assume that setting up new organisational structures will automatically generate greater staff engagement. Staff engagement is a necessary pre-condition for the successful development of a social enterprise, but will not be achieved solely as a result of structural reforms. Other providers can potentially gain this benefit without major organisational upheaval, through developing strategies for staff engagement.
  • The protection afforded to social enterprises through long-term contracts at the beginning of the Transforming Community Services programme is no longer available. In these challenging economic times, and with the government committed to provider competition, social enterprises may be more vulnerable to failure. It is essential that social enterprises develop the necessary business orientation and flexibility to innovate that will be necessary in a more competitive environment.
  • Social enterprise leaders should be supported to develop the necessary skills and competencies through national development programmes. The Social Enterprise Investment Fund should continue to provide expertise, advice and support.
  • The guarantees and provisions of the earlier Right to Request programme should be continued. Arguably, the programme has been successful because of its commitment to guarantee pensions for existing NHS staff, as well as the investment in awareness raising and development support, the contract guarantee, and backing from the centre for individual applicants when faced with local, regional and trade union opposition.
  • It is likely that the benefits of social enterprises in health care will be seen in the longer term, with potentially limited impact in the short term. To achieve this long-term impact, there needs to be greater certainty around commissioning priorities. It is vital that the government and Department of Health commit to a long-term support programme and commissioning strategy for emergent social enterprises.

The report’s author, Rachael Addicott, has written this blog

Big Society Capital launched to help provide investment for mutuals and social enterprises

The Government, backed by the High St banks, has launched the Big Society Bank,  to support organisations that invest in the sector, helping them:

  • Provide a greater range of financial services to social sector organisations;
  • Raise more money for onward investment into the sector; and
  • Become more sustainable and resilient themselves.

The bank, to be known as ‘Big Society Capital’ will, the Government says, also be a champion for social investment with policy makers, investors, stakeholders in the sector and the public at large. Venture capital pioneer, Sir Ronald Cohen, will serve as the unpaid, interim Chair of Big Society Capital Limited, the operating company of the group, until it is fully operational.  Nick O’Donohoe, formerly Global Head of Research at JP Morgan, will become Big Society Capital’s first CEO.

The Government insists Big Society Capital will play a critical role in speeding up the growth of the social investment market. Socially orientated financial organisations will have greater access to affordable capital, using an estimated £400million in unclaimed assets left dormant in bank accounts for over 15 years and £200million from the UK’s largest high street banks. Big Society Capital and the four Merlin banks have also come to an agreement on heads of terms for the banks’ £200m investment in the company.

Couple of quotes, first of all from Prime Minister David Cameron:

“When I announced the idea of a Big Society Bank, I wanted to help social enterprises and other groups to grow and expand their vital work. I am delighted that with today’s announcement of the organisation’s first investment, this vision is becoming a reality. I’ve seen the amazing work that Britain’s social enterprises already do to tackle some of our country’s most intractable problems.

“I believe that Big Society Capital will play a major role in injecting significant resources and financial innovation into these social enterprises, while at the same time attracting further funding from charitable foundations, private individuals and other investors. That’s why I wholeheartedly welcome today’s launch and the organisation’s first investment.

And also from Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude:

“There are few moments like this when something happens that can really change the world. We’ve all heard about a small charity or social enterprise sweeping away entrenched local social problems. But we have not seen a significant commitment to help social innovations grow and be implemented on the national stage until now. Big Society Capital will undoubtedly change this and unlock the money that charities and social enterprises need to grow when a big opportunity comes along. This government is proud to support this achievement. I want to thank Sir Ronald Cohen and Nick O’Donohoe and everyone else, including the banks, who have made this a reality so quickly.”

There is more detail on the Cabinet Office website

Co-operative and mutuals membership up 25% since credit crunch – now close to 10m

By David Bicknell

The Co-operative sector has grown by more than 25% since the credit crunch, with membership of co-operatives now close to 10m. Turnover in 2o10 was over £16bn, according to a report in the Observer.

The article says that the annual report from Co-operatives UK, to be published this week, will show that as well as  big players such as the John Lewis Partnership and the Co-operative Group performing strongly, a thriving new generation of smaller, grassroots organisations has sprung up.

The report also refers to efforts by some MPs to persuade Chancellor George Osborne to consider a mutual model for bailed-out bank Northern Rock, which Osborne is expected to put up for sale before the end of the year.

Under a blood red sky: the challenges facing local councils over mutuals and social enterprises

By David Bicknell

The longer the waiting goes on for the open public services white paper to provide some clear direction on the Coalition’s up-to-date thinking, the more the mystique around mutuals grows.

Local Government Chronicle has just carried a blog by Chris Brophy, a partner at the Capsticks health and social care law firm, which discussed the potential of mutuals and social enterprises.

Brophy makes some good –  and certainly descriptive – points, suggesting for now that “there is a certain ‘quiet before the storm feeling’. You can sense the sea being sucked back, the birds have gone quiet, the sky is red-stained, there is no breeze, as those interested in new business methodologies wait anxiously to hear whether there is a panacea for financial, staffing and service problems.

“Breathing becomes more steady as anxiety is anaesthetised by contemplating the difference between mutuals on the one hand and social enterprises on the other and then you can start settling down to really understanding what is going on, and settle down you must as you realise you really need to understand this beast before heading back to base and being enveloped by the day to day issues.”

He goes on to make some excellent points about the challenges facing local authorities:

‘One of the difficulties for local authorities developing social enterprises is the time, funding and resources needed to just to consider change, never mind working up business plans including engaging with staff and thinking about the identification and transfer of significant businesses. Despite the difficulties all Councils have, everyone knows this process needs to be commenced, and now, as deadlines start to loom more large and the need to stay in control of the process becomes the main line on the forehead.

‘In many ways Local Authorities have it more difficult than PCTs. At least PCTs knew essentially what services they were looking to transfer as part of the Department of Health’s “Transforming Community Services programme and pursuant to their Right to Request” to take their provider services. The scope of the businesses for the LAs to think about is potentially very extensive and there is also the question of how to package businesses together.

‘Should all the businesses in contemplation be transferred to one social enterprise or would those businesses not work together and need to be packaged in different ways. They might for example have very different kinds of beneficiaries or users of the service and the stakeholders may be very different and therefore it might be more difficult to align the governance of the organisation with the business objectives if they were all combined. However scale is important and of course funding and income is crucial. It serves no useful purpose to set up a business which has no viable business plan. Whatever happens you need to identify the services, the assets, the staff and the support that will be involved and at the same time you will looking to satisfy yourself about the potential management team, its capabilities and skill-sets and then developing the business plan to see if it can all work.

A useful and informative piece. You can read the whole post here

Mutuals: Financial Times report says the Coalition’s Public Service Reform Plan is On Hold until July

By David Bicknell

A report in the Financial Times has suggested that David Cameron’s plan to free public services “from the grip of state control” has been put on hold until July, in the face of opposition from the Liberal Democrats and public concern over the privatisation of health and social care.

The positive aspect of this story, however, is still that the White Paper has been delayed, not shelved, and that  ‘mid-July’  is still only a few weeks away.

The report says the plan to transform public services through greater use of private providers, mutuals and social enterprises has already been cut back and is now the subject of coalition wrangling.

The FT report says: “Downing St insiders confirmed on Wednesday that the vaunted white paper on reform – originally set for publication in January – is now unlikely to be published until mid-July.

“Mr Cameron has already been forced to abandon a proposal in last year’s comprehensive spending review that the white paper should set quotas for handing over public services to independent providers.

“In February, he promised to create “a new presumption” for public services to be open to a range of providers competing to offer a better service.

“Conservative officials said work was under way to create a white paper that set the framework for the coalition’s approach to the public services, including opening up opportunities for small and medium-sized companies and mutuals.

“An earlier draft largely set out existing government plans, including cutting the cost of Whitehall procurement by centralising much of it, encouraging a million public sector employees to form social enterprises and using payment by results for welfare-to-work and offender rehabilitation.

“Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, is insisting the final white paper does not pave the way for the wholesale privatisation of public services – resisting a push for a big expansion in independent provision by Mr Cameron’s policy adviser Steve Hilton.

“Nick does not want there to be any sense that the public sector can’t be a provider of good quality public services,” said one Lib Dem official.”