Co-operatives, Social Enterprises and the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill
This week, the National Assembly for Wales agreed the general principles of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill. We were pleased to see Assembly Members raise the potential for social enterprises and co-operatives in delivering social care during the debate.
We believe there is a compelling case for a greater role for co-operatives and social enterprises in the delivery of social care. Co-operatives and social enterprises offer high quality services that are value-based. They provide responsive services that are citizen directed giving a stronger voice and greater control to service users and carers. Finally, they are anchored in their communities and investment by the public sector in co-operatives and social enterprises stays in the community and will be recycled for wider economic and social benefits.
Examples of social enterprises and co-operatives already working in the sector demonstrate the benefits of the approach. The Foster Care Co-operative cares for 160 children from 55 local authorities, including some in Wales. The Foster Care Co-operative reinvests profit to provide more foster care support and training. It provides a high level of support to foster carers in the belief that this aids the longevity and stability of placements, including support group meetings every six weeks. Navigo is a community interest company that runs mental health and associated services in north east Lincolnshire. The company’s voting rights give service users, carers and staff equal voting rights. Furthermore, Navigo design its services in conjunction with the people who use them.
We welcome the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill’s promotion of co-operatives, social enterprises and user led services. However, we are concerned that the duty to promote social enterprises and co-operatives could be ambiguous or overlooked. We believe there is need for greater clarity about what is meant by a duty to promote, with guidelines on the minimum responsibilities placed on local authorities. Clear understanding will help local authorities meet the requirements of the Bill.
We believe that social enterprises and co-operatives could play a key role in the transformational step-change in social services, leading to services where the individual service user is central to service delivery. We would encourage further debate on the role of social enterprises and co-operatives, the support they will need and the role of local authorities.