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Caring from the community

Dr Helen HaughThe vulnerable elderly could be one group to benefit if new models of social enterprise were funded and developed sooner rather than later

Dr Helen Haugh, University Senior Lecturer in Community Enterprise at Cambridge Judge Business School, says the vulnerable elderly could be one group to benefit if new models of social enterprise were developed sooner rather than later.

But Dr Haugh says as a first step more funds need to be devoted to improve research on how social enterprise business models can step into the care market:

“I think in the future we will have a plural health economy where we have different types of providers. But I would hope that social enterprises would have identified financially viable business models and will be much more important players in providing care for the elderly in residential homes.

“I think the Community Interest Company (CIC) model is one model that really has huge potential for providing a governance framework for social enterprises in this particular market.”

Dr Haugh points to how little research there is on social enterprise business models of care and how ‘pilots’ need to be worked on first:

“We are sitting here talking about something where there is practically no evidence. There is a lot of discussion about what it could do, but policy, and particularly when policy brings funds, needs to be based on evidence, and what we really need is evidence on how these different models could work.

“Money needs to be set aside to explore how these models could work. Then we would need a pilot for a small number of care homes for the elderly that have been set up under the social enterprise model so that we can gather real evidence of how this model works in practice.”

Earlier in the podcast Dr Haugh talks of the failings in the care system brought about by the closure of Winterbourne View, the privately run care home at which patients with learning difficulties suffered abuse and the recent collapse of another care home operator, Southern Cross, with 700 homes and who will see its 31,000 elderly residents transferred to new landlords:

“Southern Cross really has brought to our attention some of the complexities of delivering care to the elderly. Historically the public sector played a large role in providing care for the elderly. However, in the last 20 or 30 years the care market has become dominated by the private sector, and the potential for the third sector to enter into this domain is enormous. But there are real challenges associated with creating a financially sustainable business model in the care home market.

“One of the main reasons for opening up the market to the private sector was the belief that the public sector was inefficient. There were issues of quality control and scandals. It was thought that in bringing in the private sector this would drive up competition and improve the performance of and the delivery of care to the elderly. What we have now seen is some of the care issues return and we need to rethink the delivery of care to the elderly.

“The real challenge we are facing is that while we have seen the emergence of social enterprise in domiciliary care, there are very few models for care homes for the elderly; I have only found discussion of two possible organisations. While the intention is there we need more evidence.”

Dr Haugh said if the CIC model of social enterprises were adopted it could potentially improve the governance issues surrounding care homes in the future:

“Social enterprises, particularly if they adopt a CIC model, have a commitment to reporting back to the communities they support. They have to report on the activities that they use to engage different stakeholders in their annual report. There are potentially greater checks to ensure that the social enterprise if it adopts the CIC model is operating in the community interest; they are pursuing something beyond profit.”

Dr Haugh ended her podcast with her ‘blue sky thinking hat’ firmly on saying volunteers could potentially be recruited to help run these social enterprise care homes:

“We are entering a period where different models can be designed and considered and evaluated and I think there is likely to be huge interest in the establishment of new care homes on a social enterprise model. They can also bring in additional resources through volunteering too.”