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Can homecare cooperatives meet the challenges faced by social care?

There is evidence that homecare cooperatives are beginning to expand in the UK, following on from success in the United States and Europe.

Under recently revealed post-Brexit immigration plans, low-skilled workers would not get visas. One area that would have a huge impact is adult social care. There are 840,000 care workers providing daily help to older and disabled adults in care homes and the community; of these, 6% are from outside the UK – and currently one in 11 posts are unfilled. Most roles are not classed as skilled jobs, the pay is usually under £20,000 and it is not classed as a shortage occupation.

Can the setting up of homecare cooperates meet some of the challenges facing homecare?

Be Caring

Be Caring (formerly CASA), which in November was highly commended for employee ownership culture at the Employee Ownership Association awards. It’s the UK’s largest employee-owned provider of social care services in the home, with 850 employees operating across Newcastle and Tyneside, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool. 

“Our clients’ needs always come first,” says the organisation. “So, our range of services covers everything from traditional domiciliary care to more complex needs like dementia, learning disabilities, palliative care and reablement.

“Our colleagues are all co-owners of the business, and so share in its success. Like being part of a family, we support and encourage each other to be the best we can be. We put people first, not profits. This goes for our colleagues as well as those who we support.”

In particular, it offers career opportunities, development and support to help colleagues develop skills and achieve their goals. It can help people qualify as a nurse, occupational therapist or social worker, and partners with Sunderland College to offer accredited awards.

But Be Caring CEO, Sharon Lowrie, acknowledges that colleagues in the care industry “are under-valued because the sector isn’t viewed on a par with the NHS”. She adds: “We’re starting with the basics to create a strong foundation based on our core values. We have highly skilled colleagues who have the ability to support and transform the health and social care system international parcel delivery. Through better commissioning, and working in partnership with our health colleagues, we can make a difference.”

Last year, Be Caring participated in the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Care, holding up Allendale Court in West Denton, Newcastle, as an example of such forward-thinking commissioning.

Following a visit, Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, said: “The commitment of their staff supports people to have a life and not just a service. I believe the partnership approach shown here is truly ground breaking and a model for the rest of the country. Quality support is dependent on the quality of the workforce. The values of Be Caring Ltd are absolutely lived by their people.”

Co-op council collaborations network

The Co-operative Councils Innovation Network (CCIN) is a collaboration between local authorities in the UK who are committed to finding better ways of working with, and for, people. As part of its programme of work, it awards funding for projects on a local and national scale but in 2020 it was decided to narrow the focus to one area: policy prototypes in health and social care.

“Health and social care is a broken system in the UK,” says Cllr Chris Penberthy of Plymouth City Council, who chairs the CCIN Values & Principles Board. “But if you look elsewhere – northern Italy, for example – there are lots of co-operatives doing health and social care quite successfully.”


The challenges facing social care are well known to us all. And the apathy of central government does nothing to alleviate the current situation. The concept is not new and successful examples of cooperatives in health and social can be found in the United States and Europe.

Professor Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, is more than impressed by the cooperative model having said on his visit to Be Caring: “The commitment of their staff supports people to have a life and not just a service. I believe the partnership approach shown here is truly groundbreaking and a model for the rest of the country. Maybe we should all take notice or at least explore the benefits of the cooperative approach.

Albert Cook BA, MA & Fellow Charted Quality Institute Managing Director Bettal Quality Consultancy

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