Public Sector Mutuals Conference: Matt Hancock speech

The Minister for the Cabinet Office, Matt Hancock, spoke about the benefits of public sector mutuals and the new mutuals strategy.

Everyone in this room is a reformer.

You’ve dared to do things differently for one reason above all: because you want to be the best at what you do.

And my message to you today is simple: this government is on your side.

We’re on your side because we believe in giving public servants the freedom to deliver their services in the way that they know best.

Because it’s better to give people a stake in their own success than a top-down target from on high.

And because we know you can have public service values and financial discipline: an entrepreneurial drive that’s driven by mission more than money.

Thanks to your work over the last 6 years, your approach is now grounded in clear evidence.

Let’s take the first: that if you trust people to innovate then that’s exactly what they do.

Look at Six Degrees, a Salford-based social enterprise that spun out from the NHS in 2011.

The team specialise in providing talking therapies for people suffering from depression or anxiety.

Since spinning out they’ve pioneered a new single point of access service, starting small then winning a commission to expand the service more widely.

They’ve teamed up with Salford University to develop new ways of improving communication skills for those who care for people with dementia.

And a senior staff member won the prestigious Mary Seacole Award for her work on improving access to mental health services within BME communities.

Or look at Realise Futures, a chain of 6 social enterprises, offering employment opportunities to disabled and disadvantaged adults in Suffolk.

Staff at all levels are encouraged to submit ideas at senior operational meetings.

One idea that came out of this process was to expand their veg box delivery business. In turn, this has led to more orders and more jobs.

From school support to adult social care, leisure centres to libraries, behavioural insights to building management, public service mutuals are rewarding innovators and changing lives.
Let’s take the second point: that the mutual model often means a happier, more engaged workforce.

We already know that, on average, absenteeism falls by a fifth and staff turnover by 16% following a public sector spin-out.

Survey data from across the sector show that staff become more likely to recommend their service to friends or family, feel more trusted to do their job, and more likely to feel like they can do their job to the standard they see fit.

And staff that feel in control in their own destiny are better placed to deliver for the public.

Take Achieving for Children, a jointly-owned social enterprise run by the Boroughs of Richmond and Kingston.

The team deliver integrated children’s services across both local authorities, from early years help to fostering to special educational needs.

Ofsted took the unusual step of moving the service up two grades, from ‘inadequate’ to ‘good’. They say that, since their last inspection, local children’s services have been ‘transformed’ .

The third advantage of mutuals is that it allows us to combine the best of public and private sectors: hard-hitting social impact and a healthy bottom line.

RippleZ is a social enterprise providing NHS services to vulnerable teenage parents in Derby.

Since spinning out they’ve won three NHS contracts, increasing their turnover by £1 million and growing from just 11 staff to 48 in the last 5 years.

Or look at Community Dental Services, which we expect to grow from £7 to 12 and a half million following recent NHS contract wins.

It’s very likely to hit £20 million by the next financial year.

So not only are public service enterprises free to innovate, they’re also free to grow: reinvesting their profits, doubling down on their success, scaling up as far as their ambitions can take them.

Many of these organisations began life with support from the Cabinet Office Mutuals Support programme, or the NHS Right to Request.

But this is no longer just a series of programmes, it’s fast becoming a national movement.

In 2010 the UK was home to just 9 public service mutuals. Six years on it’s 115, employing 35,000 staff, delivering around £1.5 billion in public services.

And now we want to go further.

Large parts of the public sector are open to this model, but there are still too many public servants who want to spin out but don’t feel like they can.

We understand, we are on their side, and we will back their ambitions every step of the way.

Our manifesto included a ‘right to mutualise’ and we want to work with you on delivering that commitment.

We’ve backed this up with £4 million in support at the Cabinet Office.

We’re looking to publish our new mutuals strategy in the Autumn, and we’ll be talking to you over the summer, to get your ideas about what you think should be in it.

I know you’re clear-eyed about the challenges ahead, about the barriers we need to unblock before we can take this revolution to the next level: sceptical service commissioners who prefer the tried and tested; sceptical lenders, put off by your lack of credit history; and the need for more commercial and technical skills.

But let’s be clear too about the huge advantages we have too: as a world-leader in the field of social investment, as a pioneer in payment by results, and with a state that has consistently shown itself ready and willing to reinvent itself to better serve the public.

So in our strategy we expect to look at issues like raising awareness of the opportunity, strengthening the evidence base still further, improving access to finance, and creating a more supportive commissioning environment.

I’m looking forward to working with you on setting out these vital next steps.

Of course this agenda is not a silver bullet, and no-one here would claim otherwise.

Digital transformation, data-driven improvement, user-centric service design. inspiring leadership: these all matter as much as the delivery model.

But our principle is clear, if public servants believe they can deliver a service better by taking control of that service, we have a duty to let them try.

This is life-changing work, and I pay tribute to everyone in this room who’s advanced the cause of public service reform.

Now we must aim higher, innovate faster, and not be afraid to fail first time.

That’s the means; the end is to help all our fellow citizens succeed.

That’s our mission.

You have my support.

Let’s go out and make it happen.