PEOPLE MEETING COMMON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL NEEDS TOGETHER

Social Care Mutuals

Social care mutuals deliver social services through co-operative or mutual governance structures. This means that members of the organisations are involved in decision-making and benefit from its activities, including through the reinvestment of profits.

Benefits of social care mutuals

Co-operatives and mutuals generate benefits through their autonomy and independence, decision-making by members, member economic participation, reinvestment of profits, and co-operation.

These organisations can:

  • Increase organisational diversity in public service markets: Co-operatives and mutuals can assist small and medium sized service providers to collaborate and operate more efficiently in public service markets.
  • Harness the professionalism of public service employees and unleash their entrepreneurialism: Employee-owned organisations ‘spun out’ of existing government organisations are an alternative to privatising or outsourcing services. Employee-owned organisations have a key role to play in developing a quality, innovative public service workforce.
  • Increase consumer choice and control by helping individuals and communities to formulate their own responses to problems in client directed care markets, co-operatives and mutuals develop empowerment through community owned co-operatives.
  • Stimulate public service innovation: member engagement in decision making leads to greater innovation and entrepreneurialism.

In addition, the reinvestment of profits back into the co-operative creates a multiplier effect to improve the economic development and resilience of the local community.

When is a social care mutual the right model?

A co-operative or mutual structure delivering public services can improve the economic return on investment for taxpayers. They achieve this by their support for consumer choice and control and efficient and innovative service delivery. Social care mutuals are well placed to support community resilience where public services cannot be delivered due to market or other service provision failure.

Co-operatives and mutuals have many advantages in delivering services in areas that are not well serviced due to being perceived as small, remote, complex or specialised. Co-operatives and mutuals have proven particularly useful when:

  • Services are too expensive for government or market forces to provide
  • There are low or variable profits
  • Specialised service is needed
  • User input is required in service design and delivery.

What are co-operatives and mutuals? 

Social Care Mutuals can have different structures, depending on who their members are. Three possible business models are listed below.

Consumer co-operatives

Consumer or community-owned co-operatives can be an ideal approach for disadvantaged groups where there is the energy, commitment and expertise in the community to tackle problems.

Co-operatives can be a method of developing members’ capacity to participate in the broader community by providing enhanced networks, increased confidence and skills.

Consumer co-operatives have demonstrated success and have enormous further potential with some of Australia’s most disadvantaged groups including Indigenous groups, small rural communities, people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, people with disabilities and older Australians in need of care.

Employee co-operatives

Employee-owned co-operatives work best with employees who share a common goal and have the skills to co-operate. They provide staff with autonomy and the ability to make judgements as to how to provide the best service at the local level. They free staff to be entrepreneurial and to innovate.

Employee co-operatives and employee-governed businesses can be effective for those working with people with complex needs, where consistency of personnel is required, and where services are focused on empowerment-based approaches. Staff-based co-operatives can be particularly effective in providing care services in areas where staff attraction and retention has proven problematic.

Enterprise co-operatives

Governments throughout Australia are seeking larger, more efficient public service organisations with a single point of entry for a wide range of complex social problems. Many smaller, yet highly effective social support organisations may not survive competing against these larger organisations with their economies of scale. This can mean larger organisations replacing smaller local groups that have built relationships with their local community, have local knowledge and have specialist experience.

Co-operatives of businesses and not-for-profit organisations, sometimes called enterprise co-operatives or producer co-operatives, can support smaller local providers to compete by enabling them to share corporate functions including bulk purchasing, accounting, human resources, marketing, client software and OH&S services. Enterprise co-operatives assist smaller and specialist organisations to increase productivity and market power whilst retaining local input and local jobs.

Further reading

Australian Case Studies

Kudos Services

Kudos Services

Kudos is Australia’s first public service mutual to form from a government agency, operating in the NDIS. The mutual is an NDIA partner in early childhood early intervention services for children under five in South Australia and provides therapy services to children over five.

National Health Co-operative (NHC)

National Health Co-operative (NHC)

Formed in 2006, this not-for-profit, member-owned co-operative provides affordable medical and healthcare services to communities in the ACT and regional NSW. The NHC aims to significantly reduce instances of preventable diseases and lessen the personal and societal impact of chronic conditions.

Nundah Community Enterprises Co-operative (Nundah Co-op)

Nundah Community Enterprises Co-operative (Nundah Co-op)

Nundah Co-op was formed in 1998 to create sustainable employment and training opportunities for people with mental illness, psycho-social disability learning difficulties or intellectual disability. In 2015, the Nundah Co-op was named a winner in the Social Enterprise Awards.

Supporting Independent Living Co-operative (SILC)

Supporting Independent Living Co-operative (SILC)

Established in 2015 as a hub to support families develop their own independent housing models under the NDIS, this co-operative assists the families of people with disabilities create positive home environments.

UK Case Studies

Aspire Mutual

Aspire Mutual

Aspire is a social enterprise dedicated to providing care and support for adults living with learning difficulties, disabilities and mental health.

CSH Surrey

CSH Surrey

CSH Surrey is an employee-owned, not-for-profit NHS community healthcare provider. Since 2006 the organisation has worked in partnership with the NHS and social care in homes, clinics, hospitals and schools to transform local community health services.

HCT Group

HCT Group

HCT Group provides over 30 million passenger trips on its buses every year. HCT Group has become a social enterprise at national scale, growing at an average of 24 per cent per year for 20 years, with contracts won in competition with the multi-national giants of the transport industry.

Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH)

Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH)

Rochdale Boroughwide Housing (RBH) is the UK’s first tenant and employee co-owned mutual housing society, with over 12,000 homes throughout 52 neighbourhoods. It employs 580 people and has an annual turnover of £55m.

The Co-operative Group

The Co-operative Group

The Co-operative Group (The Co-op) is a large British consumer co-operative providing a diverse range of retail and wholesale services including food, legal services, insurance and funeral care.

The John Lewis Partnership

The John Lewis Partnership

The John Lewis Partnership is the UK’s largest employee-owned business and parent company of John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners, which are owned in Trust by over 80,000 Partners.

Your Healthcare

Your Healthcare

Your Healthcare is a employee-owned mutual and provider of community health, social care and infrastructure services in Kingston and beyond.

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