Social Co-ops: a lasting legacy
The European Union is facing unprecedented demographic changes (an ageing population, low birth rates, changing family structures and migration).
Social co-operatives exist to provide social services such as the care of children, elderly and disabled people, and the integration of unemployed people into the workforce.
International researcher John Restakis speaking at the 2011 Co-operatives UK Congress sparked the idea of future development for social co-operatives in Wales that could be a lasting legacy in UN Year of Co-operatives 2012.
Over the past year working with a wide range of partners resources were gathered together. From nowhere, we have succeeded in putting social co-ops firmly on the Welsh social care agenda, with excellent support from two international co-op experts.
Jean-Pierre Girard’s two day visit last February aroused a great deal of interest as a possible solution to growing demand for home care, including evidence presented to the National Assembly Health & Social Services Committee and others.
Many months of planning went into a four-day tour by John Restakis in June, involving community events in Neath & Port Talbot, Newport, Cardiff, Newtown and Conwy. John met with Welsh Ministers, officials and spoke at a reception with Assembly Members.
Varied audiences were keen to hear his message. He addressed the Public Service Management Summer School, the annual conferences of the Welsh Directors of Social Services, the Wales Alliance of Citizen Directed Support and national voluntary organisations. In total we held 14 events involving 750 people.
Arising from meetings with Gwenda Thomas AM, the Wales Social Services Minister, our four objectives for social coops have now been forwarded to officials drafting future social services legislation, guidance, and work on Direct Payments.
2012 released a lot of energy and excitement in working together with many co-operators. Special thanks are due to Adrian Roper, CEO of Cartrefi Cymru who has greatly assisted this work. Mick Taylor, of Mutual Advantage mentored, and produced an outline draft Home Care Co-operative DIY Kit, which is being pursued.
This week Manchester hosts the global finale for the UN Year of Cooperatives. This is the only time and place where co-operators can share ideas and experiences to promote and support social co-operatives.
We have organised two workshops. The first on Wednesday, 31st October is an International Forum, chaired by Robin Murray, with a presentation by Pat Conaty a Co-ops UK research associate, Swedish co-operators and others on future development.
On the following day I chair a session were we explore issues across the four UK countries from a human rights perspective, with a short video about Quebec featuring Jean-Pierre Girard’s.
Social co-operatives are not a soft option. However, they can provide a satisfying solution in providing quality services, and improve the status of workers, the well being of service users and strengthening our communities.
In a tough economic environment, they require hard work and commitment to ensure businesses run for and by members: service users, worker and community supporters, alongside quality municipal provision.
This opportunity is far wider than Domiciliary Care. Social Co-ops cover a broad spectrum of care areas: resettlement, domiciliary care, child protection, domestic violence, Care & Repair, addiction and much more. But future development will require a policy framework and strategy at local and national levels.
Key messages from Wales concern:
- The crucial role of co-op education in empowering members and driving innovation.
- The importance of a multi stakeholder European definition of social enterprise in forthcoming Welsh legislation.
- Action at Westminster to support social investment incentives for new start-ups and to help transform third sector providers.
- Public-Social Partnerships to unite strategic local economy stakeholders.
- Development of Local Service Centres, Co-operative Consortia and generating the necessary capital.
All are vital social economy jigsaw pieces to build sustainable self-help co-operatives.
What better legacy could arise from UN Year 2012 than the emergence of local self-help care co-operatives, run for and by members, as part of co-op services to members.
The report on delivering social care via a cooperative model is available at:
David Smith, Wales Progressive Co-operators
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