CO-OPERATIVES UK has launched a support service for communities setting up co-operatives in public services.
The new initiative ? Provide ? was unveiled at the Co-operative Party conference in Newcastle during the Public Sector Services fringe meeting. Part-funded by Co-operative Action it is run by Co-operatives UK's New Ventures Panel.
The support body's remit is to promote awareness of co-operative opportunities for delivery of public services and to assist those looking closely at ideas.
A six-page booklet released at the launch includes case studies of co-operatives in the community that provide public services. It cites seven examples from housing, social care, childcare, health, education, waste management and leisure sectors.
Pauline Green, Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK, told delegates: "The Government's current commitment to our ways is striking. We now have a window of opportunity to see where we go now and to look at how co-operation interacts with local services. This document does that."
Mick Taylor, director of Mutual Advantage, which offers support to new co-ops on behalf of Provide, said: "What we're asking people to do is make co-operative connections in their communities and find holes that co-operation can fill.
"Many people in the Co-operative Movement have interests out of the Movement. They may be a director of a hospital or a school governor. We want them to make sure empowerment is embedded into their organisation's vision, values, and business plan.
"If people let us know about opportunities we will conduct a formal assessment and if necessary facilitate a support team to take ideas forward."
The booklet says that if specific public services are no longer provided by the state co-ops have a role to play in keeping service delivery in the hands of communities.
Ideas of co-operation in public services outlined in Provide's launch document include homecare co-op Shepshed Carers, Loughborough; south London's GP co-op SELDOC; Tower Hamlets recycling co-op; Oxford, Swindon and Gloucester Co-op's childcare initiative; and Greenwich Leisure co-op.
Dame Pauline added: "The Co-operative Movement has been one-dimensional with its businesses being put into certain sectors, but now, at last, it is starting to come together.
"It is my ambition that by the time the next opposition government comes into power co-operation will be so embedded into society that it cannot be moved."
Provide offers practical advice, support and a consultancy service with telephone support, face-to-face meetings, workshops, pre-feasibility studies and help in bringing together teams to work with local partners and development staff.
For further information or assistance contact Helen Shaw, Project Administrator at Co-operatives UK, on 0161 246 2941, or e-mail: [email protected]