A REPORT on the value of public services delivered by co-operatives and other social enterprises concludes that co-operatives are well placed to compete for public service delivery contracts in many sectors of the economy and are already making a substantial contribution to service delivery in others.
Commissioned by Co-operatives UK, and part funded by Co-operative Action, the research by Institute for Public Policy Research addresses the added value of public services being delivered by co-operatives and other social enterprises.
It looks at the mixed market of public service delivery and the particular characteristics of engagement, and closeness to the service user, that co-operatives and other social enterprises can bring.
The improved staff retention which results from giving employees a real stake in an enterprise is a particular contribution that the sector can make to the delivery of public services.
While primarily examining the childcare sector, the report also identifies other key areas – recycling, leisure management, housing, education, health and social care – where co-operatives are well placed to compete for public service delivery contracts.
The report, Co-operative Social Enterprise and its Potential in Public Service Delivery, by Howard Reed and Kate Stanley from ippr.
Pauline Green, Chief Executive of Co-operatives UK, said: "This research should prove thought-provoking and extremely useful not only to those engaged in, or looking to get involved in co-operative service delivery, but also to policy makers, advisers and support agencies."
The key recommendations of the report which, if adopted, would help the Co-operative Movement develop as a key player in the delivery of public services, include:
• Co-operatives should align themselves more with the ethical investment market and should point out that their organisational structure and ethos means that, if run well, they are in an ideal position to promote socially responsible business behaviour
• The potential advantages of co-operatives in providing training and engagement and helping to promote workforce retention should be promoted and publicised more widely
• Co-operatives should continue to work with the Government to reform the tendering service for public service delivery contracts to make the process fairer to smaller organisations who wish to tender
• The co-operative sector needs to promote investment in management skills training and advice, particularly in sectors where it is not yet well established
• There needs to be a vast improvement in the quality and quantity of data available to evaluate co-operatives and other social enterprises
A case study in the report looks at the childcare sector in more detail; it considers how co-operatives are providing services in this sector and how that potential may be further developed.
The study concluded that there is a significant opportunity for social enterprises, including co-operatives, to take advantage of the opportunities that now exist to substantially increase the amount of childcare delivered through social enterprise in the UK.
The report's launch event highlighted Co-operative Childcare, the new support service for childcare businesses that want to adopt the co-operative way of working.
With specific reference to childcare, Dame Pauline observed that "high quality, affordable childcare is vital in today's society, but very often this is beyond the reach of the people who need it most".
She added: "The ippr report confirms that co-operatives have a significant opportunity in this field and whilst there are already many successful co-operative providers, social enterprises have yet to fulfil their true potential in the childcare sector."
A limited number of copies of the report are available free by contacting Angela Gibbons at Co-operatives UK on 0161 246 2941 or at [email protected]