Caring through sharing: New approach to social care wins the 2017 Co-op Pitches

Emma Adelaide Black made the winning pitch for CareShare, an online platform to match care workers with users

CareShare, a fledgling co-operative which would give carers and users of social care services a voice, has won the 2017 Co-op Pitches – a Dragon’s Den-style competition organised by Co-operatives UK at Congress.

The idea, presented by Emma Adelaide Back, offers an “innovative approach to care” that aims to match workers and users, giving greater control to both parties; people being supported will be able to choose who cares for them, and care workers will be able to choose the kind of work they do, who they support and whether or not they want to be self-employed.

The approach is based around an online platform that will allow care workers, care users and their families to work together and achieve high quality, decently paid care, says Ms Back, who has a background in community development, mental health and advocacy services.

During her pitch Ms Back explained how there is a 41% turnover in the care sector, with 70% of providers dominated by for-profit companies, and how five out of six care users are tied into block contracted care leaving them with little choice or control. “30% of care providers need improvement,” she said. “Overall, this doesn’t make sense.”

But, she added, during her research she came across credible, co-produced, platform-based care solutions. From this developed the idea of a model that would facilitate family and friends participating in care, using existing expertise within communities that encourage continuity of care and peer support.

She added: “I feel so honoured to win this competition, it was a heady experience to pitch to such an incredible audience of co-operators and innovators. CareShare is in the very early stages and this win has been a fantastic vote of confidence for the idea. I’m now hunting for fellow co-operators to join me on this journey.”

Ms Back wants to stop public funds for social care flowing into the hands of shareholders and investors that are far removed from the front-line, and instead have the givers and users of care to be in charge and reap the benefits. “This doesn’t only mean the money stays with them, it means people become much healthier and happier too,” she said.

Also pitching on the day were Guy Lochhead and Leila Gamaz from the  member-led, inclusive Bristol Gym Co-operative and Joshua Lawson from Leeds-based Woodhouse Community Growers, a new co-op aiming to bring together food producers and community gardens in Leeds.

All three groups pitched their idea to the full conference and took questions from a panel and the floor, before delegates voted for their choice of winner.

Both runners up received £1,000 in support from the Co-op Pitches’ sponsors Co-op Insurance, with Ms Back receiving £2,000,  plus business support from Co-operatives UK’s Hive project. Co-op Insurance‘s Dave Hampson sat on the panel of judges alongside Britta Werner (Unicorn Grocery) and Zig Power (Leeds Bread Co-op).

Mr Hampson said: “I’m delighted for the CareShare team. In addition to this investment, they had the opportunity to share their ideas with a range of co-operative entrepreneurs involved in enterprise and co-operative investment.

“There were people from large businesses there, tech and web development co-ops, local authorities – just the kind of people that co-operative entrepreneurs need to hear about their idea.”

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