There’s a really interesting post on Chris Newis’s blog here about clashes between social enterprise and trade unions which are being provoked by the coalition government’s rush to externalise parts of the NHS. The story — workers at the Lyng health centre in West Bromwich staging a protest against Sandwell PCT’s plans to convert to a social enterprise — is covered on the BBC website here.
Chris’s post makes a number of important points, advocating that there should be not only a genuine consultation process involving workers and trade unions prior to any externalisation, but also that there should be employee-ownership training and that new social enterprises in the health sector (and elsewhere in public services) should be established as Industrial & Provident Societies rather than CICs because the IPS form enshrines democratic worker involvement.
There is a very real danger that social enterprises and civic society organisations are being manoeuvred into position to assist in the dismantling of the welfare state. And yet the Social Enterprise Coalition has broadly welcomed the plans, albeit with minor reservations about the kind of definition the government is using when it talks about foundation trusts being ‘social enterprises’, and ACEVO’s deputy CEO, Dr Peter Kyle, has been quoted as saying that the sector will greet the white paper commitment to deal with any willing provider with “a sense of relief and enthusiasm”.
If the sector bodies that represent us and to which many of us pay membership subs are determined to ignore the politics of the situation and simply act as cheerleaders for mutuality at any cost, then they are failing us, failing public sector workers, and failing communities.
These are issues that go to the heart of what the sector is about, what its values really mean, and what its politics are.