Care practitioners from co-operatives and charities in the UK have initiated a forum to discuss and share best practice in care provision across the country.
The forum for Co-operative Approaches in Care was established against a backdrop of care increasingly being seen as a commodity, to identify, support and champion co-operative innovations in the sector.
“Ideally, [care] is something provided lovingly by family and friends,” says the Forum’s of reference. “Since 1948, that state has accepted social responsibility for making it available. Now the state is pushing that responsibility onto the market, and it isn’t working. Care needs to be paid for, care-workers need to earn a proper income, and quality and safety need to be assured; but the marketization or commodification of care is failing those who most need it”.
Facilitated by Co-operatives UK, the Forum brings together pioneers of new approaches to care, people directly involved in care, co-op development practitioners, researchers and those able and willing to influence policy, to explore how the organisational approach used by co-operatives can be applied to the sector.
However, the Forum emphasises that this is not a search for a new model of care, but the pursuit of a co-operative approach to care, “a way for those who are being cared for, and those who are caring (whether as a gift or a job) to co-operate with each other and achieve their mutual objectives in the most efficient and effective way to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations”.
“We are focussing on those who are co-operating for the purpose of care,” says the Forum, “not on a legal construct.”
In the context of society realising that care needs can be met differently, the Forum will explore the demographic, economic, political, and cultural conditions of care, and how modern co-operative concepts can be applied.
“The Forum is particularly interested in approaches to care that are rooted in communities where the starting point is nurturing the relationships between people – including neighbours, family, paid carers and volunteers,” says the terms of reference.
“We believe that the mutual self-help, solidarity and fairness inherent in co-operative enterprise has a lot to offer those working towards such an approach, and are especially interested in multi- constituency approaches that bring together beneficiaries, professionals and the wider community in a fair and effective way.”
Among others, these approaches include: enabling citizens and qualified carers to work collaboratively together (co- production); engaging those involved in care in owning the responsibility for meeting care needs within the community; addressing disempowerment and isolation through the organisational approach to care; and addressing the need for a changed relationship between citizen and state.
The Forum aims to meet quarterly and will engage in the exchange of good practice, raising awareness about co-operative approaches, and practical development.