“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity” - Heather Barden, Chief Executive of Be Independent
- Parent Body: City of York Council
- Date of Launch: April 2014
The biggest driver for our decision to ‘spin out’ as Be Independent was the risk that our services would be broken down and outsourced. We always saw the value for our customers of the whole service and so it was vital to us to keep the services together.
The challenges were mostly to do with getting agreement through the local government decision making processes. However we also faced much anxiety from staff within the organisation too as it was a worrying prospect removing ourselves from the apparent safety of the Council.
The process despite being challenging most of the time really enabled the senior managers to fully understand what it was that we were creating and also gave us the opportunity to work with external consultants who are experts in this field which proved time and again to be invaluable.
They supported us throughout the process and assisted us to create a Community Interest Company (limited by Guarantee) with a Board of 6 Director - owners of which 3 are employed by the business – thereby giving us a business with 50% staff ownership.
The opportunities on the other side of this process have been plentiful – the freedom to make decisions, the speed of those decisions, the empowerment of staff but mostly and best of all, the knowledge that we can not only continue to provide our service but we can market what we do and therefore help more people to live independently.
One way in which we have empowered staff is by supporting them to take forward any ideas they may have – the simplest and best thus far came from one of our control operators who suggested that we could ring our customers on their birthdays to wish them a Happy Birthday. We now do this every day and the customers love it – and so do the staff. This is a great example of a simple idea that has been put into practice with massively positive results. We also now involve frontline staff on our interview panels for recruitment of new staff.
We now also have 3 advisory boards – a professional and voluntary sector board, a staff board and a customers and carer’s board. This allows us to consult a wider variety of stakeholders on the strategic direction of the business on an on going basis.
Heather’s advice for prospective mutuals
The best advice I can give is two-fold:
- Proceed until apprehended – if no one tells you it’s a bad idea then stick to your guns and just keep going! Tenacity and determination are critical to success.
- Seek support from experts – such as the Mutuals Support Programme.
My experiences of the Mutuals Support Programme
The expert and bespoke support received through the Mutual Support Programme has definitely got us to where we are today. The application process for this support was simple, the people were extremely professional and helpful, and the support they provided us made this happen!
I believe whole heartedly that we wouldn’t have been here now had it not been for the support we accessed through this programme. I could not recommend it highly enough.
For more information, you can contact: Heather Barden
Similar mutual case studies in the wider health sector
Provide - launched in 2011 Provide delivers community health services across a wide variety of localities, going from strength to strength ever since.
Case studies main page