Press release

Francis Maude visits Sunderland Homecare: a model for Big Society public services

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Francis Maude has visited Sunderland Homecare, an employee-owned social enterprise.

Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude has visited Sunderland Homecare to see for himself how this employee-owned social enterprise is successfully delivering high quality care services to local people.

The government plans radical reform of the public services to enable entrepreneurial front line staff to form mutual organisations and take over the services they provide.

Evidence shows that when staff take a stake in their organisation, productivity grows by up to 19%, meaning better services and better value for money.

Sunderland Home Care Associates, based in Mowbray Road, is at the cutting edge of employee ownership in the public services and is using its expertise to support others that want to follow through the Government’s Mutuals Pathfinder programme. Founded by Margaret Elliott, a veteran of social enterprises, having started up two in Sunderland in the 1970s and 1980s, the company now boasts more than 350 care workers who all take an active role in running the organisation. They provide 7,000 hours of care a week to around 600 clients in Sunderland and South Tyneside.

Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, said:

Big Society is about giving people on the front line the power to change things, rather than officials in distant offices who don’t know what’s important to local people. Sunderland Homecare is a great example of how freeing people from top down control can produce much better services and better value for money for tax payers. I want to see more organisations like this springing up across the country.

Margaret Elliott, said:

We are delighted to have the Minister visit us today to see how local people are benefiting from our employee-ownership model. I believe the key to our success lies in our staff. If you give people a stake in the business and people are valued and know they are listened to, you will achieve high quality client service.

As shareholders, staff take part in meetings every other month to set budgets, pay and conditions and are all involved in training and developing training programmes so their development needs are met. Though many employees lacked formal education before joining, almost 300 employees have now gained NVQs in Care and Management.

The minister also paid a visit to the home of a Sunderland Home Care client to discuss the help he receives from the social enterprise.  Andrew Myers is the former mayor of Sunderland and at 83, relies on Sunderland Home Care Associates to help him with his personal care needs - visiting him every morning and evening and also provide a sitting service, spending time with him or taking him out to lunch or wherever he’d like to go.