Since the launch of the Coalition Government’s White Paper Equity and Excellence – Liberating the NHS, which became an Act of Parliament in March 2012, the NHS has been in an unprecedented state of flux. Yet as the dust of structural re-organisation begins to settle there would appear to be light at the end of the tunnel for social ventures operating in this space.
Many of the NHS commissioners we at The Young Foundation work with have expressed the importance and value of working with social ventures – ensuring that the potential for innovation is not lost in the face of scarce financial resources.
An example of where and how CCGs are working with social ventures can be drawn from our work with NHS Arden Commissioning Support. In the last three months we have shortlisted 15 social venture applications from over a 100 high quality submissions, all hoping to deliver innovative health care services across the areas of Coventry, Rugby, Warwickshire and Worcestershire. Even in the face of tight timescales, our capacity building project demonstrates the enthusiasm of social ventures to engage with the NHS, even when no direct funding is at stake.
A number of striking themes have emerged from our shortlist:
Many ventures are addressing care for the elderly, particularly around entry and exit to hospital care. Age UK Warwickshire’s ‘Care and Repair’ service, Crossroad’s Care Coventry and Warwickshire ‘Home from Hospital’ service and Agewell’s partnership with The Community Housing Group ‘Capacity to Care Befriending’ service, all have a focus on supporting the elderly and avoiding hospital admissions. Additionally Sampad Southeast Asian Arts focuses on engaging those from with dementia in dance.
Overlapping are services to support those with long term conditions (LTCs). Gateway Family Services, Diabetes UK, Weavers of Wellbeing Solutions and Freshwinds all want to allow patients with long term conditions to live with their condition more effectively, take control of their lives and to avoid unplanned admissions to hospital.
Several applications focussed on harder to reach and under-served groups. The Children’s Society, ASPIE, the Nuneaton & Bedworth Healthy Living Network, and Home-Start Wyre Forest all focus on groups which are less well served; respectively young migrants, adults with Asperger’s, those in areas of economic and social disadvantage, and families in distress.
Finally there are a number of projects which are less easy to categorise. Caribbean Roots Connection promotes engagement with and advocacy for the Caribbean community across Worcestershire. ELAROS 24/7 works with those with Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). Worcester Community Trust’s ‘RE:generate’ project supports a portfolio of social enterprises in the area – RE:fresh, RE:vive and RE:train – respectively a community café, a training facility, and a shop providing work experience to victims of domestic abuse.
As well as being a good thematic mix, the shortlist is balanced in other vital ways. It is broadly split between projects in their early and late stages, providing room for both delivery and innovation. It also represents all the relevant geographies of the 6 CCGs operating across the NHS Arden area.
The list of fifteen shortlisted social ventures represents strong ideas, in areas where the social sector has the greatest potential to help the NHS:
• The care and support that prevents illness and admission
• Support and the promotion of self care for those with LTCs
• Engagement with harder to reach groups and
• Support for those with particular social problems.
We are delighted to be able to showcase the variety, innovation and potential of social ventures operating in health and social care. Although our project is currently only operating in the West Midlands, the potential to share learning across the NHS and with social ventures is large, hopefully allowing the project to replicate at pace and scale across England.