Public Service Mutuals: Pathway to Innovation?

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As an Ambassador for the Cabinet Offices Mutuals Programme, my role is to champion and support the growth of public service mutuals (PSMs) and link them to the Cabinet Office’s Mutuals Support Programme. For me the rationale of this role is simple. Mutuals can be a fantastic way to deliver innovation, efficiencies and outstanding outcomes for both services users and the employees who take on a role in running and owning the new business venture.

A public service mutual (PSM) is defined as an organisation that has spun out of the public sector, but continues to deliver public services, usually under contract to the organisation from which it has spun out. The professionals who have left the public sector therefore continue to use their skills and expertise to deliver public services. Importantly, PSMs have a significant degree of employee control built in.

The government is committed to supporting the creation and growth of PSMs and considerable success has been achieved with 71 relatively new mutuals now live and trading, as demonstrated in this interactive map of PSMs. In a climate where more and more public services are being provided by a diverse range of providers, mutuals offer an interesting and important option.

Back in the autumn of 2009, I had the honour of meeting two inspirational social enterprise leaders. Both Geoff Walker, CEO of Sandwell Community Caring Trust (SCCT) and Graham Beaumont, CEO of Health Exchange CIC transformed services previously delivered within local authorities or the NHS into dynamic social enterprises. For Sandwell Community Caring Trust, the staff team have an active role in the control, direction and ownership of the organisation. The results are phenomenal:
• Significant drop in staff sickness rates;
• Dramatic increase in staff morale;
• Greater innovation and flexibility in the delivery of the service model;
• Adoption of attractive staff benefits (such as the ability to buy and sell annual leave between colleagues, flexibility in arrangements for pension payments etc.) and
• Input and direction by the staff in shaping the social mission of the organisation and a real say in the use of surpluses – leading to the creation of a new respite service to support individuals with a learning disability and/ or specialist care needs.

Due to such impressive results, it is no wonder that SCCT came second in the Sunday Times Top 100 Best Places to Work in the Public/Third Sector 2011, amongst the many other prestigious awards and accolades they have collected.

To help raise the profile of mutuals and stimulate debate, The Young Foundation and the Cabinet Office are jointly hosting a lunchtime seminar on Thursday, 20 June 2013. Tom Shirley from the Cabinet Office, home of the Mutuals Programme to support and encourage fledgling mutuals, will be speaking between 1-2pm at The Young Foundation, discussing the substantial benefits to be gained from PSMs, as well as how the Cabinet Office sees the vision for the future. With more and more local authorities considering the business case for PSMs and a wide range of other services moving ahead, it’s a fast moving field. Join us for this lunchtime seminar, and learn how the future of public service mutuals might affect your work.

To attend this event, RSVP to events@youngfoundation.org. Please feel free to bring your lunch; light refreshment will be provided.

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