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Sandwell Community Caring Trust (SCCT)

"From people delivering the public sector to delivering public services"

SCCT is social enterprise created through the externalisation of a local authority in-house social care service. It demonstrates how a new delivery model can bring about positive changes that save money and improve outcomes.

In the mid 1990s the local authority in Sandwell, in the West Midlands of England, was facing extreme financial pressures and needed to reduce its care budget by £8 million (€10m). The local authority faced the prospect of cutting services, and even though the care service provided to highly vulnerable people was costly, it was considered important service that must continue. This led to some innovative thinking, and as an alternative to making service cuts, in 1997 Sandwell Community Caring Trust was formed. 82 former council staff members were transferred to the new organisation that was set up as a company limited by guarantee with charitable status. This allowed SCCT to be able to benefit from tax relief and be eligible for additional grant funding for capital investment.

Today SCCT provides residential, respite and day care for adults and children, supported living and domiciliary care to around 700 users. It has contracts with local authorities in two different regions of England: the West Midlands and the South West. SCCT currently has a turnover of £10.5 million (€13m) and employs 500 staff.

Under the leadership of an entrepreneurial social worker, Geoff Walker (now CEO), the organisational culture was transformed. The board, for instance, includes staff members and trustees. There is flat management structure and a strong culture of listening to and involving staff. When the service was being run by the local authority, the staff moral was very low, with high workforce turnover and 22 days of sickness per member of staff per year. Moving into a new model led to a true culture shift, in the words of the CEO “from people delivering the public sector to delivering public services”. A new bonus scheme was introduced to incentivise attendance along with flexible working. Sickness reduced to less than 1 day per member of staff per year, staff turnover dropped to less than 4%, which in turn allowed long-term investment in the workforce.

From the outset there was a push to reduce management and administration costs. Unnecessary layers of bureaucracy were cut out of the management structure; resulting management costs falling from 22% in 1997 to less than 6% today. Spending was then redirected to the delivery of frontline services. Reducing unnecessary middle management speeded up decision-making and gave individual managers power and greater responsibility for services they were responsible for. A good, comparative example of cost reduction is residential elderly care. The SCCT cost for looking after an elderly person is £328 (€390) per week, whereas the cost in the local authority in-house service was £657 (€790).

In addition to the financial benefits, addressing the previous high levels of staff sickness and turnover, improved the quality of the service. Happy, supported and autonomous staff are better able to develop strong, long-term one-to-one relationships with service users. This enables carers to develop a profound understanding of the needs and concerns of users, to then feed these ideas back to management.

The success of SCCT is based on the empowerment of the staff and its commitment to reinvest profits. SCCT makes profit, however, it is used to improve quality and deliver additional services that are not funded by the local authority. Flexible working hours avoids the need for agency staff. Over a decade SCCT expanded to provide a range of services for the local authority. Based on a strong partnership, new services have been designed jointly with local authority and service users, including a respite care unit for profoundly disabled children and supported living for people with learning disabilities. After its success in Sandwell SCCT branched out. SCCT won a contract in Torbay in Devon, in the West of England, and began the culture shift process over again.


Source: Social Business International: