Introduction to Public Service Mutuals

A brief overview of Public Service Mutuals and their benefits.

What is a public service mutual?

We define a public service mutual, which we refer to as a mutual, as an organisation which:

  1. has left the public sector (also known as ‘spinning out’)
  2. continues to deliver public services and aims to have a positive social impact
  3. has a significant degree of staff influence or control in the way it is run

There are now over 110 public service mutuals across England, delivering public services across a wide range of sectors. You can see where they’re operating on this interactive map.

What are the benefits of the public service mutual model?

For employees, being part of a mutual can empower them to use their experience and insights to improve services and tackle social problems in innovative and commercially savvy ways, and increase well-being and job satisfaction. For service users, mutuals can provide better quality, more effective and responsive services and improved outcomes. For service commissioners and taxpayers, they can mean better value services, combined with greater local impact, reinvestment in communities and partnership working.

Evidence indicates mutuals tend to have higher productivity than non-mutuals, provide high quality services and outcomes, and have high customer satisfaction and improved staff engagement. Studies have also shown employees with a stake in the business they work for are more committed to delivering quality services and more flexible in responding to the needs of the business.

Research into the Public Service Mutuals Sector (February 2017) (PDF, 953KB, 45 pages) shows that around three quarters of respondents believe that since spinning out as a mutual:

  • they provide more innovative (82%), more responsive (78%) and better quality (76%) services

  • their workforce is more engaged, happier (78%) and more productive (76%)

  • the services they deliver are value for money (73%)

Research participants indicated that these benefits primarily stem from the reduced bureaucracy (87%) and faster and easier decision making (91%) compared to being in the public sector, and having more mechanisms for staff to influence service delivery (87%). This early evidence suggests that the mutual model can improve the quality, impact and value of public services.

Whilst the model may not be right for all, as mutuals have grown there is increasing evidence of their benefits and the ways in which they can enhance public service delivery.

What is the government doing to help?

This government is committed to supporting the growth and development of Public Service Mutuals. The DCMS Mutuals Team has designed a package of support measures over the remainder of this parliament, which will help organisations consider creating Public Service Mutuals, and for existing mutuals to grow. These will be launching early in 2018, and you will find the latest updates by checking What Support is Available?

These programmes will be underpinned by a comprehensive programme of research, including an annual “State of the Sector” report, and longitudinal qualitative research which will seek to understand, in depth, the journey that mutuals go through as they grow and develop after leaving the public sector.

Published 3 April 2017
Last updated 21 August 2017 + show all updates
  1. The third round of the Mutuals Interim Support Fund is now open for applications until 29 September 2017.
  2. Updated map of live public service mutuals
  3. Update to support available. The Mutuals Interim Support Fund is now open for applications.
  4. First published.