Care Coops

The provision of social care is in crisis and has been for some time.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the sector hard and exposed the shortcomings of the current financialised system.

People who need care deserve better and ought not to be vulnerable to a lesser quality of care because of cost-cutting or the sort of market failure which results in the collapse of care provider organisations.

Care workers are amongst the most exploited workforce in the country and many employing organisations do not even recognise trade unions, let alone show concern for the rights and wellbeing of their workers.

Care work is both enormously vital and extremely precarious.

Rates of pay are scandalously low given the importance of care work to all families and the overall economy.

We need a shift to a system in which caring is properly valued and the voices of care workers, care service users and their families are fully heard in decisions about how this important work is organised.

Trailblazers in different parts of the world are showing that cooperatives can be a humane solution for the mess that the sector is in.

They can enhance both the quality of care delivered and the terms and conditions of the workforce in a virtuous cycle of improvement.

Such positive developments can be seen in the Welsh Foundational Economy and Cartrefi Cymru Co-op and, further afield, in the large Cooperative Home Care Associates in the Bronx.

New digital platforms are enabling care service delivery systems to be more efficiently and democratically delivered.

The Kirklees Colne Valley care cooperative has been built upon concerted community engagement and has recently advanced to the point of a successful community share issue.

Comrades from Kirklees and PCDN have been supporting a group in Preston focused upon developing ideas for a domiciliary care cooperative in the city.  

This involves councillors and officers from Preston City Council, officers and activists from the trade union Unison, and representation from Preston Carers Network working together in an attempt to learn from and replicate the achievements in Kirklees and adapt these to the Preston setting.

Unison hope to tie the pursuit of a care cooperative into broader union organising and campaigning linked to an ethical charter for care.

Other international allies are helping us connect these developments to emerging plans for a cooperative ecosystem of networked cooperatives across Preston.

We believe community, trade union and Council support is vital to these developments and hope to involve local people, care service users, their families, care workers and others in discussions that will take these ideas forward.