Action to empower: why Australia needs more co-operative and mutual enterprises in health, community, and social services

Cooperatives Nursing home care Aged care Community services Social services Australia

Public inquiries such as the Royal Commissions into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, into Aged Care Quality and Safety and into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability are demonstrating that Australia needs a fundamental shift in policy settings in these sectors. Incremental changes will not suffice; focus on people, compassion and prevention of abuse and neglect are as or more important than surpluses, concurrent with maintaining financially sustainable services.

The NDIS and other government reforms promoting individual choice and control in a market or quasimarkets, the projected increase in workforce demands for aged care and disability services, and the future of work in the digital age highlight a need for innovation in the design and governance of social services. Co-operatives and mutuals are powerful business structures capable of driving such innovation. This is demonstrated through case study examples of successful co-operatives and mutual enterprises in Australia and the UK, drawing on insights from the UK Mutuals program.

This report is a call to action to demonstrate how targeted policy measures focused on enabling different forms of ownership, can increase diversity and choice in social services in Australia with positive outcomes for the quality and productivity of those services.

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