This year, the policy consultation will focus on two areas – one seeks to tackle the crisis in our social care sector, the other at how we save and revitalise our town centres and high streets.
Members are invited to share their views and ideas through our consultation, running until 11th June.
There are a number of ways to get involved – you could attend your local party meeting to discuss the topics and share your collective views, or send your individual answers to us. Resources and support are available to help you convene your meetings online, and you can also learn more at one of our regional conferences happening through the year – where expert speakers will debate these issues with our members.
Your contributions will be collected and considered by the NEC’s policy sub-committee, who use your ideas and feedback to shape policy proposals. These will be brought to the Co-operative Party annual conference in the Autumn for delegates to debate and vote on.
Due to restrictions related to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, we anticipate that local party meetings, where the policy process can be discussed and debate, will take place online into the near future.
All the resources you need to hold your meeting online can be found here. We've prepared a guide to using the technology you'll need to organise remotely, and presentations about the topics up for discussion in the Policy Process.
Our social care system has pushed to breaking point – certainly by the Covid crisis, but also before Covid hit. The market in social care services incentivise a race to the bottom on quality and workforce conditions, a lack of accountability, and de-personalisation of services.
Our social care system is in urgent need of reform. Private companies profiteer, whilst older people, those who rely on social care and the staff that deliver it, pay the price. Large chains of residential care are backed by private equity with opaque ownership and decision-making, while social care budgets in councils are stretched to breaking point. Companies that provide home care are forcing workers to make shorter and shorter visits – which benefit the bottom line at the expense of overworked staff and those who rely on them.
Shrinking budgets and increasing demand has meant tighter eligibility criteria. Hundreds of thousands fewer people are getting help, and there is a financial imperative for local authorities to commission services at the lowest price regardless of quality. All the while the numbers providing care informally to family and friends is growing.
Councils have supported the start-up of co-operative and participatory models, to deliver services that put people before profit and, from Leading Lives in the South East, to Colne Valley Care or Equal Care Co-op in West Yorkshire, these models are demonstrating in practice that there are alternatives to private, for-profit models. These existing social care co-operatives show that a co-operative approach can innovate, empower service users and care workers, remove the profit incentive and leakage, and create a sector that reflects the needs, wants, demographics and challenges of those who rely on it and work in it. In Wales, the value of co-operative approaches has been recognised by the Government, who have created a duty on local authorities to promote co-operative organisations to deliver care in their area, as part of the Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Act in 2014.
The Co-operative Party believes that local councils should ensure services have transparent, participatory governance structures, which give service users, workers and the wider community a say in how they are run. This is not about who provides the service – the Party supports insourcing – but in the way it is run so that voices outside the town hall can be heard.
The Co-operative Party proposes a new model of care, one that uses the principles of co-operation to build on the first-hand knowledge of those who rely on, receive and provide care. It is care recipients, their families and care workers who know how to create a care system that will deliver consistently high-quality care - they should be allowed to lead the care sector. Co-operation that is hard-wired into the system as well as that which emerges from the bottom up within this sector can provide a powerful tonic with the ability to radically benefit those in need.
There is also an urgent need for reform of the ‘market’ in social care – reducing profit leakage, improving the quality and accountability of care, preventing the continual downward pressure on terms and conditions for the workforce, and better aligning the values of social care with those of the NHS to support the transition to an integrated system.
However, when services are delivered by private organisations, better protections are needed. When private organisations face financial difficulties, they are often sold on to another private organisation or simply closed down.
Under such circumstances, there should be a ‘right to own’ in the private sector. Much like public sector employees have a ‘right to request’ the option to turn the service they work for into an employee-owned enterprise, so should those carers working for privately owned organisations as a ‘Right to own’.
Not-for-profit social care providers should be ‘asset locked’ to ensure that assets of all types (including any surpluses) are locked within the organisation or transferred to another asset locked organisation on winding up.
Take a look at the Co-operative Party’s existing social care policy. What do you think should remain part of our platform and what do you believe needs changing?
What lessons can we learn from this crisis to ensure our social care services are better prepared for future challenges?
What values and principles should underpin our approach to social care?
Coronavirus has shown yet again the unacceptable inequalities in accessing health care and outcomes. How can we ensure our social care system offers fair access, promotes equality and tackles the wider determinants of ill health?
At the Co-operative Party, we believe that co-operative approaches to social care empower people to have a say over the services they rely on. How can we further empower people who use social care services and their families?
How can we ensure that social care workers are properly valued and safe, with a stake and a say in their workplace?
Mental health services are chronically underfunded – but more funding alone will not fix the system. How should mental health services be shaped and delivered?
Social care is often seen as a service for older people, when in fact younger adults’ care accounts for half of councils’ social care spending. Despite this, young people cannot vote and are often excluded from decision-making – even on the services that impact their lives. How can we ensure the social care system meets the needs of everyone, regardless of age, and give young people a voice in decisions which affect them?
(Filtered based on whether you live in England, Scotland, NI or Wales)
Make a contribution
You can either fill out our easy online form to answer the questions individually, or if you are contributing on behalf of a local party you can also upload a Word or PDF document with your collated answers.
Contributions will only be accepted via our online form. Submissions sent by email or post will not be accepted.
Local party or group submission
High streets are the beating hearts of our communities – but their decline is accelerating. Covid-19 and repeated lockdowns leaves much of the retail sector with an uncertain prognosis. Quite apart from this pandemic forcing us to stay home and close up shop, high streets face a litany of existential challenges: competition from online retailers, lower household incomes depressing customers’ spend, increases to rents and business rates, reduced footfall thanks to bank branch closures, the uncertainty of Brexit, and cuts to police putting frontline retail workers at risk.
And nowhere has been immune to the loss of stalwart shops. Well-known brands shutting their doors and leaving gaping holes where we used to shop and many retail workers without a job or proper pension. As people look forward to the easing of restrictions, they are eagerly anticipating a return to their town centres as a big part of a return to normal – but closed shops and out of town shopping centres may have left them with a limited local offer. The emotional attachment to town centres is no longer matched by the services that they offer.
However, it may be that the power to protect and revive our high streets and town centres is in our hands. The co-operative movement grew from the shop floor and today plays an active role on many high streets – from the co-operative supermarkets selling good quality food and providing post office services, to the communities coming together to rescue their local pub and the credit union continuing to provide financial services after the last bank has left town.
And, in some communities today, people are coming together to develop community-owned models for their town centres, ensuring shopfronts don’t stay shuttered and supporting businesses and organisations which will benefit and invest in their neighbourhood. From community pubs to saving the local post office, when people come together it is possible to have a positive impact on the place you live.
To ensure branches are not replaced by phone and internet banking only, new Access to Banking Standard should be introduced to protect the continued existence of the “last bank in town”, supervised by the Financial Conduct Authority and penalised when banks fail to uphold that standard, with the funds from any fines spent on financial inclusion and development of credit unions. A review of ATM charges should take place, with a view to reforming them or abolishing charges altogether.
Take a look at the Co-operative Party’s existing policy on high streets. What do you think should remain part of our platform and what do you believe needs changing?
How has your local town centre fared through the Covid-19 crisis? Do you believe that your community’s shopping habits have changed for good?
What were the challenges facing town centres and high streets pre-Covid? How has Covid changed this – both for the better and for the worse?
Why are our town centres important? What role do they play in placemaking, civic participation and pride, community cohesion and local employment?
What role can communities, co-operatives and local councils play in tackling empty shops?
How can we make it easier to list assets of community value, and, crucially, how do we enable community ownership and management?
What might the future high street look like – both the best-case scenario and the worst? What should we aspire to, and how can we as activists and communities make that happen together?
What roles should Westminster, the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales, metro mayors and local councils in reviving high streets? What policies do you think would work in your area? How can they support more co-operative businesses to open in town centres?