w/shop outcome letter to WCMC

Professor Andrew Davies, Chairperson, Welsh Co-operative and Mutuals Commission
10 July 2013

Dear Andrew,
New Social Co-operatives Community Based Elder Care workshop - 1 July 2013

I am writing to let you know of the outcome of our workshop,which was the culmination of a five year campaign to promote social co-operatives in Wales. It was held during Co-operative Fortnight with a varied and well-balanced audience from statutory, age, voluntary / community organisations and individuals. Chaired by Professor Marcus Longley, we present further evidence as agreed with your secretariat last April.

With eighty people attending, and a further ten wishing to attend, we believe this demonstrates considerable interest in social care co-operatives as a vehicle for moving ‘people in need - to people in control’.

To support the Commission’s work we commissioned the attached presentations:

  • Thinking differentlyabout domiciliary care? The policy, research and practice context’- Nick Andrews (Swansea University),

  • Social Care Co-operatives’ - Mick Taylor (Mutual Advantage),

  • Newport Social Care Co-operative: Taking the Plunge’ - David Smith (Newport Social Care Co-operative) and

  • New Social Co-ops and Community based Care’ - John Restakis ‘ (co-op care consultant)

Key messages are that:

  • ‘Co-production’ has its origins in the birth of the Co-operative Movement. Social Co-operatives define precisely what otherwise can mean ‘all things to all people’.

  • “Hatching social co-operatives is the difficult part of the trick” which involves “intellectual work” and “community organising” and “making people members is the crucial co-operative difference in making user and worker rights a reality” (John Restakis).

  • Other economic and efficiency benefits range from innovation, early intervention, re-investing the surplus for community benefit, to ‘co-operation between co-operatives’ in reducing back office costs and creating a stronger civil society – “from welfare state to welfare society".

As a caveat to any reform of the system, government should prioritise user control rights in future legislation, regulation, funding and support. “Commissioning strategies should reward reciprocity and focus upon improving quality” (John Restakis).

Appropriate regulation will be important, but co-operatives cannot exist without co-operators, nor are they a panacea for an under funded care system. Social care co-operatives will require investment in Co-operative education and lay leadership training. This will require inspirational education and practical support.

Experience at Newport Social Care Co-operative shows that ‘simple’ can be complex and time consuming. The greatest diversification of income will provide the best possibility of balancing the books. Newport highlights the need for:

  • Active local co-operators to ‘prime the pump’

  • Local knowledge and specialist care sector expertise

  • The Co-operative Groups Co-op Enterprise Hub Scheme

  • Strong local authority elected member support

  • Positive contribution of local voluntary sector intermediary bodies

  • Engagement with an effective Local Carers Forum

  • Multi-stakeholder steering group reflecting a ‘community of interest’

  • Early intervention – ‘a stitch in time saves nine’.

  • Robust informal evaluation provided by the local university.

With co-operative activists and a local policy framework and strategy to support sustainable co-operative development, the City Council is well placed to ‘promote’ and mobilise local resources in the public interest.

Over the next decade those over 85 years of age will double. Clearly, the current system becomes even more unsustainable. Canadian work on 'social franchising’ provides a useful learning opportunity on how we might scale up locally driven and trusted quality models across a range of community based elder care services and we trust this will feature in the Commission’s recommendations.

Our workshop evaluation found an appetite for further collaboration. As a small self financed organisation we shall follow up with an ‘on line’ Question and Answer session, and make workshop video material available to over 50’s forums, local authorities and others.

The Social Co-operative Development Forum, which we actively support, is well placed to network shared learning and to provide mutual support to move from ‘rhetoric to reality’. Existing Co-operative societies can assist, but it will also require an element of government support.

Although outside your remit, we would encourage changes in the regulatory frameworks in Wales, with a view to reducing bureaucracy and strengthening the focus on outcomes and the lived experience of service users.

We wish you and your colleagues well in producing your report to support a ‘Co-operative Decade’ in Wales. To keep workshop participants and others informed I shall shortly place this letter on our web site.

Yours sincerely,

David Smith



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