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Plan for social care should break private provider grip on the sector by investing in new ways of running services

New NEF research calls for investment in social care to support ownership and control by users and employees, rather than subsidising private profit

If government increases funding for adult social care, care users and workers should benefit rather than the owners of increasingly large private firms, according to new report from the New Economics Foundation (NEF).

Prime minister Boris Johnson has promised to produce a plan for fixing the social care crisis which could massively change the way services are funded within the next year. But new report from NEF argues that the crisis of care is not only one of funding, but also of provision, with most services run for private profit and increasingly by globalised chains.

Rather than reinforcing a top-down model of private ownership, which risks increases in funding being hoovered up by profit-driven companies, NEF argues that investment in social care should support and provide incentives to encourage new forms of ownership that shift power and the benefits to care workers and to people needing support.

Short-termist, cost-driven, competitive tendering in social care should be scrapped and replaced by public-social partnerships, where the local state collaborates with socially-driven, not-for-profit organisations. This, along with increased funding, would help drive improvements in care quality, provide better and more secure jobs for a growing workforce, increase the resilience of local economies, and build more connected, resourceful and powerful communities.

The report sets out a number of recommendations for national and local government to support the development of new and existing democratic models of ownership, including:

  • Improve access to investment with no expectation of a quick or high return for the co-operative, mutual and social enterprise sector, so that they are able to play a much greater role in the provision of social and, above all, residential care.
  • Strengthening the Care Act 2014 by placing a duty on local authorities to promote care worker- and user-driven forms of ownership across domiciliary and residential social care provision.
  • Directing a growing share of social care funding each year to local public sector, co-operative and community-based providers.
  • Building capacity within local authorities and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector to play a greater role in the provision of care.

Daniel Button, Senior Researcher at NEF said:

Adult social care has undergone a dramatic transformation over the past 40 years. Today services are almost entirely outsourced, with the private for-profit sector playing the biggest role in a quasi-market where providers compete, largely on the basis of cost.

Despite the promise of more choice and control, power has largely been transferred from top-down state services to top-down private services. Any new money for social care should be used to shift power to people needing support, their families and communities, as well as frontline staff.

By supporting diverse forms of democratic ownership and practice, policymakers can help to build a more impactful, sustainable and resilient care sector that provides high-quality care at the same time as building local wealth. Without this ambition, a new funding settlement for social care will prop up a failing system – and miss the mark altogether.”


Becky Malone,, 0207 820 6310

Notes to editors

The report Ownership in care: why it matters and what can be done is available here

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