Social care providers should consider new approaches, including perhaps becoming co-ops, in order to survive the challenges of funding cuts and policy changes, according to a new publication released today.

The VODG (Voluntary Organisations Disability Group) discussion paper, 'Challenges can fuel change', outlines what social care providers believe are the future hopes for the sector as well as the barriers that block progress.

The publication is a contribution to Civil Society Futures, the national independent inquiry into English civil society.

Based on the views of VODG members, the paper argues that voluntary social care organisations must adapt to be sustainable.

By 2025, there will be 11.7m disabled people living in England, compared to today’s 11 million today. Cumulative adult social care cuts since 2010 have amounted to £6.3 billion, more savings are planned and the recent cash injection for social care in the local government funding settlement is only a temporary solution.

Meanwhile the retrospective requirement for providers to fund national minimum wage/living wage back pay to sleep-in shift workers would be financially disastrous for many providers and Brexit is a threat to labour supply.  


However, the paper argues, voluntary adult social care sector could be stronger if disabled people were more involved in decision-making. For example, providers could enable people supported to articulate their own demands for social care to government, arguing for better funding and support for high quality care.

The paper includes other hopes and solutions for the sector:

  • social care providers could come to be regarded as an independent “counterbalance” to the establishment
  • organisations that adopt a cooperative model might shift the balance of power and collaborate better with people supported
  • technology offers huge potential to complement support services
  • change is possible if commissioners encourage innovation and a less risk-averse approach

Challenges can fuel change also describes problems faced by providers, including:

  • organisations that receive statutory funding are often reluctant to put their heads above the parapet to criticise central and local government
  • increased bureaucracy - like multiple guidance and frameworks or local authorities retaining power through controlling personal budgets
  • commissioning that is “system focused, not person centred”, encouraging cost-cutting rather than creative approaches to care

The report follows VODG’s previous work on exploring how charities can become more sustainable and how social care leaders might develop the sector in turbulent times.

“Social care organisations have no choice but to transform, from embracing new technology to adopting new approaches to working with people and their families," said VODG chief executive Dr Rhidian Hughes.

"We’re all operating in difficult times but given the positive ethos and founding missions of voluntary sector organisations, it is clear to see how action could be sparked by the challenges we face.”