"Good lives are about more than social care."

Reflections from #socialcarefuture by Power to Change’s Development Manager, Susie Finlayson, and Community Catalysts’ Chief Executive, Sian Lockwood.

The default approach to social care in many local authorities remains traditional models of “delivery”, and profit extracting ownership. These traditional forms of service are typically offered on a ‘time and task’ basis, providing the care that people need to stay alive but not necessarily to have a life. The 30% annual staff turnover in traditional care organisations suggests there is something wrong in the way people are being asked to work, as well as in their pay and other terms and conditions. And many of the larger care organisations are owned by distant shareholders, with profits going to them rather than to the places and communities in which the organisations work.

There is growing evidence that community-owned and -led organisations are able to provide the services and supports that people need in a way that helps them connect to their community, provides a route back into care for staff disenchanted with the traditional care sector, creates local valued jobs and helps local money stay local. But these community solutions are often seen as ‘nice to have’ and lack traction with those commissioning health and social care and within wider local economic planning. Public bodies are missing the opportunities provided by community-led services rooted in local places that tap into local resources to help people get the support they need to lives the lives they want.

At #SocialCareFuture earlier this month, Community Catalysts and Power to Change led a session exploring the role and power of community-led responses that provide flexible personalised support for people who need it, contribute positively to the communities in which they work and provide good work conditions for staff.

As one of the people attending our workshop said – “good lives are about much more than social care”.


Pulp Friction evolved from the decision by a daughter and mother to create their own work opportunities when it became obvious that the daughter would not be able to get a job in the traditional food industry, much as she wanted it. From its early start with one smoothie bike, Pulp Friction has gone on to create a fleet of smoothie bikes, a choir, dance troop, and is now providing the catering within fire service facilities in Nottingham. It provides work-based employment training and skills development to people traditionally excluded from the workplace and has an excellent track record in helping people into employment. In the process, people have the opportunity to make lasting friendships and connections with the communities around them.

We may not think of a pub as social care, but The Bevy in Brighton is another great example of communities providing a safety net as well as much needed support for people. Bought by 700 members of the local community after the previous pub closed down, The Bevy promotes the wellbeing of local people and reduces isolation through affordable meal options, healthy cookery courses and ensuring isolated residents are reached via a minibus for weekly lunch clubs. It recently ran a successful Crowdfunder campaign, that Power to Change was pleased to support, to set up a meals on wheels service for people who can’t, or don’t want to, get out to the pub. Over 70 different groups meet at the pub. But this work, truly being more than a pub, isn’t funded by the local authority or NHS. The pub relies heavily on volunteers and cross subsidises activities where it can manage to generate a surplus.

These two very different examples, as well as countless others across the country, have some key similarities. People leading these ventures haven’t been asked by the ‘system’ that bounds traditional social and health care to do what they do. They haven’t sought permission from that ‘system’ either , which allows them to be flexible and follow the opportunities that arise to support their communities. These community businesses and enterprises draw on the assets of communities, as well as focusing on supporting people. They contribute socially, improve health and wellbeing, contribute to local economies and crucially, they treat people as a whole person in their community. Public services often operate in silos but community enterprises and businesses are not bounded by those silos and reflect how we, as people, navigate the world.

Together, Community Catalysts and Power to Change as part of the broader #socialcarefuture movement, want to invite you to join us in creating a shift in the value placed on and the resource put into these kinds of community-led and driven supports, and to challenge the system to move towards supporting people and place rather than the traditional sector or departmental driven approaches that are currently most prevalent.

In June, alongside #socialcarefuture, we’ll be digging deeper into these topics with a whole range of stakeholders, organisations and of course people who receive support as we run a whole event focusing on putting communities in control of care and support. We want to bring together people and organisations to design and build a powerful set of actions and initiatives, that can help shift these community-led and owned organisations and ventures into the mainstream. We’d love for you to join us.

To find out more and keep an eye out for more information about the event sign up to the newsletter here.

Power to Change is supporting community businesses in health and social care, for more information follow this link or email healthcop@powertochange.org.uk.

Community Catalysts supports local people to set up micro-enterprises that help other local people. For more information go to www.communitycatalysts.co.uk and www.smallgoodstuff.co.uk

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