The future of care is co-operative

03 April 2023

Australia is not alone as a country in being found to be failing our most vulnerable citizens when it comes to care. Several landmark inquiries into our care system have shown Australia faces seemingly insurmountable barriers to delivering a high-quality care system that is sustainably funded into the future.

The BCCM has consistently advocated for co-ops and mutuals to play a greater role in delivering care in Australia. The culmination of a decade-long campaign for policy action has resulted in an unprecedented investment by the Commonwealth in a $7 million co-operative and mutual enterprises support program in social care, also called “Care Together”.

As part of our tenth anniversary celebrations, this month we are reflecting on how the BCCM and our members support the delivery of high-quality consumer-focused care in Australia. The adherence of co-ops to the international Cooperative Principles is transforming models of care to be more humanitarian and resilient. Democratic member control means that care planning is built around the expressed preferences and needs of those who are receiving care and those who deliver it. Co-operative models also provide greater protection against market conditions and pressures, because they are formed to look after members rather than shareholders.

The BCCM has made 17 submissions advocating for increased awareness and supportive polices for the co-operative and mutual social care sector. In 2019 the BCCM produced the Disability Inclusion in the Co-operatives and Mutuals Sector in Australia report. The Accessibility and Inclusion Action Plan toolkit was developed for the broader co-operative and mutual sector to support disability inclusion action plans.

In 2021 the BCCM released Action to Empower as a call to action for targeted policy measures to encouraging more co-ops and mutuals to form in social care.

“It is imperative that the lessons learned from these Inquiries are learned by all organisations that deliver services and support vulnerable people. It is critical that organisational leadership, governance and cultural deficiencies are addressed. It is important that new models of doing social purpose work emerge. Co-operative and mutual enterprise present a worthwhile alternative model because of the social license arrangements embedded in its unique business model,” Robert Fitzgerald, AM NSW Ageing and Disability Commissioner 2021, said in the Forward of the Action to Empower report.

Emerging from this report and a Roundtable held on 25 August 2021, the Social Care Community of Practice brings people working across the social care sector together to share ideas and learn from co-op experts about how the co-op and mutual business model can help transform care services.

The Co-operative and Mutual Enterprises Support Program (Care Together) is designed as a cross-sector, place-based program to demonstrate innovative ways to improve service quality and safety in priority areas, including aged care, disability care, veterans care, allied health, and primary care. It will help improve the quality and diversity of services provided to older Australians, people living with disability, and veterans in remote and regional areas and other areas of high need.

“The BCCM has been an essential part of the Kudos story, indeed, it was involved in our formation in 2018 providing essential consulting services for our initial governance models and spin out from public service as Australia’s First Employee Owned Care Mutual. Today Kudos remains an active member, regularly participating in BCCM education events and activities throughout the year,” reflects Darrin Johnson, former CEO Kudos Services.

Several BCCM members operate in the social care sector, offering a diverse range of services:

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