The UK’s social care is in crisis. Faced with an ageing population, years of austerity have left 1.2 million people over 65 without the care they need. The Tories’ privatisation project has also seen huge percentages of our social care sector bought off by private companies, often leaving the poorest parts of the UK with the worst care. And while our services are in desperate need of more cash, increasing funding for social care would just be a plaster on a gaping wound.

We need to drastically change the way we think about social care, shifting our focus away from profits and towards people.

The co-operative movement has always believed in ordinary people coming together to solve problems and make real change. Co-operatives are based on collective action – the idea that those closest to a service should have the power to change and shape it. When social care is community-led, it can be more responsive to local needs, creating a more personalised, caring service for everyone.

Recent legislation in Wales promotes co-operative delivery models across social services, making it easier for social care co-operatives to form and flourish. Gorwelion Newydd, a Flintshire-based co-operative, is a great example of how social care co-operatives can achieve real change – completely member-owned and led, it helps empower vulnerable adults to grow in independence and confidence. The UK Government could also adopt this approach to legislation, actively helping social care co-ops and their members to fix a broken system.

But despite the lack of active support, co-operatives outside of Wales are also helping to change the face of social care. In Suffolk, Leading Lives is an award-winning social care co-operative providing care across the county and beyond, with profits always going back into the business. And in Kirklees, a growing social care co-operative project is forming at the heart of the community, aiming to fix the broken system we have in place.

Further afield, lessons can be learned from Italy’s thriving co-operative sector. Rising out of the financial crises in the 1970s, Italy’s 14,000 social care co-operatives employ 400,000 people, providing care to 5 million people. The central philosophy of social solidarity underpins everything they do – every successful co-operative commits to setting up a new one, making sure that the co-operative movement grows and prospers.

It’s time for the UK to stop turning to a broken, bruised system to care for the most vulnerable people in society. We need bold, innovative change – a system that puts people at the heart of a service, that is led by those who know it best and works in the best interest of patients, not profit. We’re looking for a solution to a serious problem, and co-operative social care might just be the answer.