Adult Social Care Social Enterprises and the Foundational Economy in Wales

Professor Ian Rees Jones Director of  WISERD

While population ageing, generational conflict and the crisis in social care appear to make regular newspaper headlines, it is striking that clear solutions to the financial and social consequences of care needs in later life remain as elusive as ever.  Researchers at WISERD in Cardiff University and Manchester University have drawn on the foundational economy approach to examine social care provision in the UK .  Their findings illustrate to the extent to which the crisis in care is framed in a particular way that hides the extent to which private equity is able to extract value from welfare funding sources. This is in the context of severe cuts in the funding of services since the financial crisis, increasing fragility within the care home industry and government ‘fast’ policies that ‘appear today and are gone tomorrow’.  Strategies for social care are mooted and appear in glossy documents but these have an existence that are separate to, and appear to disconnected from, a commitment to a universal insurance based system and a fundamental reorganisation of social care.  Despite this, there are some promising developments including experiments with integrated care, with housing based solutions as well as changes to the legislative framework.

In Wales, since 2014, this has included a provision for Local Authorities to promote social enterprises in areas of care and support.  Researchers at WISERD Cardiff University have examined the potential of social enterprises in the field of social care.  Their exploratory study finds that the new legal framework in Wales offers an important opportunity to foster a vibrant social enterprise sector in the field of adult social care that could potentially contribute in meaningful ways to the delivery of high quality user-oriented services that also entail a variety of social and local economic benefits.  However, evidence to support the claims made in support of social enterprise provision remains patchy.  Furthermore, changing the legislative framework is a necessary but not sufficient condition for improvements in services, and policy aspirations will remain just that without the resources to support service developments.