Years of austerity, short term thinking and concern about risk mean community-led models of social care often remain in the wings. But this sector is making a difference. That’s why we commissioned the New Economics Foundation to investigate the role of community businesses in the future of sustainable social care.
Their subsequent report, Sustainable Social Care argues that community businesses have a clear role in the provision of social care, particularly in early intervention. Preventative services such as BS3 Community Development’s in Bristol are making a real difference already. Children from the centre’s nursery are taken twice a week to visit the older residents of a nearby care home, and young volunteers from a local sixth-form college spend time with older neighbours in cafes to talk about basic technology skills and to get to know each other. Both activities reduce loneliness and isolation of local older people. Intervening early may not generate easily measurable outcomes from a service delivery perspective but it can delay the need for more serious care. This is a better outcome for people and could provide savings for the state.
Community businesses are also making a crucial difference in improving the employment rights in the sector and improving not only the lives of those receiving care but also of those delivering it. Many social care workers are in precarious employment, often on low salaries and zero hours contracts. In contrast, community businesses create good social care jobs, with stability for employees giving a boost to local economies. For me, this is particularly interesting from an inclusion perspective. 82 per cent of social care workers are women, often Black/African/Caribbean/Black British women, who experience some of the least stable, least well-paid employment of any group in England.
By adopting preventative approaches, building social capital in communities for collective action, building local eco-systems of mutual support and care and creating sustainable employment in the social care sector, community businesses are keeping people well.
Power to Change believes in the potential for community-led health and social care. We’ve recently launched a Community of Practice (CoP), bringing together eight community businesses delivering health or social care services to support each other to explore challenges and opportunities within the sector. We will be investing in a small number of community businesses to explore and evidence sustainable and effective models of delivery. Alongside this we will continue to invest in research to understand how community businesses can best contribute to and be supported by the sector. Please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to know more.